Nancy Skinner, the California state legislator who wrote what became the first state law designed to allow college athletes to make money from their name, image and likeness, introduced a bill Monday that would expand the law’s impact and could hasten potential conflicts between state statutes and NCAA rules.
As reported by USA Today, the law already includes provisions that are less restrictive than proposed name-image-and-likeness (NIL) rules changes that the NCAA unveiled last month in preparation for a vote in January 2021. Skinner's new bill could create additional differences, and it would make the law effective as soon as Aug. 1, 2021 — 17 months earlier than the current date. Specifically, the bill would change the law’s effective date to either Jan. 1, 2022, or on the start date of the NCAA’s NIL rules changes. As currently proposed, that would be Aug. 1, 2021.
Skinner was joined in sponsoring the bill by fellow state senate Democrat Steven Bradford.
“It’s good that the NCAA has followed California’s lead, but their proposed rules changes come up short,” Skinner said in a statement. “The NCAA doesn’t appear willing to give student athletes the autonomy and full range of benefits that California law does. My new bill will ensure that California athletes are not unfairly and unnecessarily restricted.”
The current version of California’s law came at a time when the NCAA did not yet have fully formed proposals for changes to its NIL rules. As it began to gain momentum in the state legislature, it drew threats from the NCAA and raised the prospect of significant operational problems for athletics programs in the state, USA Today reported.
While the California legislature was still considering the matter, the NCAA Board of Governors sent a letter to California governor Gavin Newsom that called such a law “unconstitutional.” That signaled the NCAA's potential willingness to sue the state under the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, which says that only Congress has the power to regulate commerce among states. The NCAA’s letter also made clear that if the law went into effect, California schools would become ineligible to participate in NCAA championships.
The NCAA’s proposed rules changes still leave differences with California’s law — even without Skinner’s new bill. The NCAA proposal would give schools discretion to prevent athletes from having deals that are deemed to conflict with existing school sponsorship arrangements. California’s law now says school contracts cannot prevent athletes from making potentially conflicting NIL deals as long as such deals center around instances “when the athlete is not engaged in official team activities,” according to USA Today.
Skinner’s bill would add a provision to the law that says schools cannot deny athletes any rights afforded to all other students, except in relation to recruitment. That likely would conflict with several other provisions of the proposed NCAA rules changes. For instance, the NCAA would allow athletes to be paid for giving lessons, but the lesson would have to be paid for by the lesson recipient or by the recipient’s family member. In addition, while the NCAA would allow athletes to sell memorabilia provided by the school, they could not do so until they have finished their collegiate playing eligibility.
A college-athlete NIL law passed in Florida is scheduled to take effect July 1, 2021. A law passed in Nebraska in late July 2020 allows each school in the state to determine the implementation date for its athletes, but this must occur by July 1, 2023. Colorado and New Jersey also have passed college-athlete NIL laws, prompting the NCAA and the Power Five conferences to increase lobbying efforts aimed at getting federal legislation passed.