NCAA’s Board of Governors Has Voted to Allow Athletes to Sign Endorsement Deals

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Update: On Oct. 29, the NCAA Board of Governors voted unanimously in favor of allowing student athletes “to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model,” according to a press release. This is just the first step toward allowing college players across the country to sign endorsement deals, but it’s a big one. The board’s vote means that each of the NCAA’s three divisions must now update their rules.

“We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes,” said Board of Governors Chairman Michael V. Drake in a statement.

The Board outlined several guidelines to help the NCAA divisions revise their rules, including making sure that student athletes don’t become employees of the university and prioritizing education for athletes. The divisions have until January 2021 to revise their rules, and an NCAA working group will continue to study the issue for the next few months and advise on how best to implement the changes.

Of course, California has already implemented its own law, but it doesn’t take effect until 2023. Read more on that below:

It’s a big day for college sports; and, depending on who you ask, a controversial one, too. A new California law is on the books, allowing college athletes to earn money from endorsements, the Los Angeles Times reports. It’s the first law of its kind in the country, and it directly contradicts NCAA regulations, which prohibit athletes from profiting off their sports.



The bill was first introduced by State Senator Nancy Skinner. It prohibits the NCAA from barring a university from athletic competition because the school allows its athletes to profit from using their name, image, or likeness, the LA Times reports. When it takes effect in 2023, the new law will open up a range of potential opportunities for athletes, from major endorsement deals with brands to smaller gigs, such as paid youth coaching positions, that are currently prohibited under NCAA rules.

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According to an analysis from the Times, players in California will be allowed to hire an agent or attorney to represent them in endorsement deals, and they can use the profits to supplement the compensation they receive from universities, such as room and board. It stops short of allowing schools to pay athletes directly, however, so it won’t cost athletic departments anything. It simply grants college players permission to do things like appear in ads or get paid to sign autographs, for example.

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California Governor Gavin Newsom, himself a former college athlete, signed the bill into law on an episode of The Shop, the sports-centric talk show co-produced by LeBron James. The episode was taped on Friday and released today.

“It’s going to initiate dozens of other states to introduce similar legislation,” Newsom said on the show shortly before signing the bill. “And it’s going to change college sports for the better by having now the interest finally of the athletes on par with the interests of the institution.”

The bill is an attempt to address the imbalance between unpaid players and the universities that profit from them. According to the governor’s office, colleges and universities across the country rake in $14 billion every year from athletics, while the NCAA nets $1 billion annually—a huge windfall that college athletes are largely excluded from. Check out the signing in the clip below, and catch the full episode here.

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James has been a vocal supporter of the law, and other athletes expressed their support online as well:

The NCAA, of course, is less pleased. In a statement released today, the organization acknowledged that “changes are needed” but emphasized that those changes need to come through the NCAA itself, not through state legislatures.

“This new law already is creating confusion for current and future student-athletes, coaches, administrators and campuses, and not just in California,” the statement said. “A patchwork of different laws from different states will make unattainable the goal of providing a fair and level playing field.”

California isn’t the only state moving forward with this kind of regulation, either. The Times reports that a similar bill has been introduced in New York. In addition to allowing college athletes to sign endorsement deals, this bill would require universities to share 15 percent of ticket sale revenue with their athletes.

With these new laws on the table, the days of under-compensated college players—and underhanded college endorsement deals—may be numbered.

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