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NCAA to California: Legislation ‘Unconstitutional’

Jason Scott

The California State Assembly this week passed a bill that would allow for collegiate student-athletes to earn money from the use of their name, image and likeness — but the  NCAA is warning Gov. Gavin Newsom that the legislation, at least in its view, is “unconstitutional.”

USA Today reports that the NCAA sent a letter to Newsom signed by the body’s Board of Governors, including president Mark Emmert, that indicated the NCAA’s opposition to the legislation. 

“If the bill becomes law and California’s 58 NCAA schools are compelled to allow an unrestricted name, image and likeness scheme, it would erase the critical distinction between college and professional athletics and, because it gives those schools an unfair recruiting advantage, would result in them eventually being unable to compete in NCAA competitions,” the letter reads in part. “These outcomes are untenable and would negatively impact more than 24,000 California student-athletes across three divisions.

“We urge the state of California to reconsider this harmful and, we believe, unconstitutional bill and hope the state will be a constructive partner in our efforts to develop a fair name, image and likeness approach for all 50 states.” 

The reference to the constitutionality of the bill could be indicative of the NCAA’s intent to take California to court if the legislation is signed. 

State Sen. Nancy Skinner, who authored the bill, rebuffed the NCAA’s legal analysis and offered some of her own, telling USA Today in a statement: “Numerous legal scholars assert that [the bill] is constitutional and that an NCAA ban of California colleges from championship competition is a clear violation of federal anti-trust law.”

The bill cleared the State Assembly by a 73-0 margin this week, and passed the State Senate on Wednesday 39-0. Newsom now has 30 days to either sign or veto the bill; and taking no action would lead to the bill becoming law.

If enacted, the legislation would not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2023, which would allow the NCAA time to update its own policies regarding the name, image and likeness of student-athletes.

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