It has been almost a year since the Fair Pay to Play Act, which allows student athletes to make money off of their names, image and likeness, went into effect. The bill was originally introduced by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who for years had felt that student athletes were exploited.
“I think it is absolutely essential for athletes to have their name, image and likeness rights. Every other student has this. If you’re a computer science student, there is no limitation on you. You could’ve developed a software program and made money on it,” Skinner said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “There was no limitation on students using skills they enhanced at their college from making money, except for student athletes.”
The Fair Pay to Play Act was initially signed into law in September 2021, with an implementation date of Jan. 1, 2023. However, new legislation was passed to move the date up to Sept. 1, 2021.
When Sen. Skinner first introduced the Fair Pay to Play Act, she expected to get calls in support of the bill from male athletes in prominent sports such as football or basketball. But to her surprise, the majority of calls were actually from female athletes, who, due to limited professional sports opportunities compared to men, felt that college was their only chance to earn money from sports.
“They were being denied any ability to earn money at the peak of their earning potential,” Skinner said.
Former Stanford women’s basketball player Alyssa Jerome also saw how female athletes were able to take advantage of the new law to earn more in college than they would be able to professionally.
“I know of some players who have decided to stay in college longer to capitalize on some of those name, image and likeness deals because even if they do (make a roster spot on a WNBA team) they won’t be as big a name as they were at their college,” Jerome said.
Historically, the NCAA has been against compensating student athletes beyond scholarships. One reason the NCAA has cited for opposing paying student athletes anything more than scholarships for cost of attendance has been preserving the amateur status of college athletics.
Jerome agrees that there is a blurred line between amateur and professional for college athletes.
“I always kind of struggle with how much schools should pay athletes, because at the end of the day we are getting a degree from that school,” Jerome said. “But I know that a lot of other athletes would argue that it’s not enough because of this shift away from amateur status, that there should be more emphasis on paying athletes similarly to how pro athletes are paid.”
Kaylee Johnson, a recent Berkeley Law graduate and former Stanford women’s basketball player, feels that a lot of athletes would like to be paid more. During her time at Stanford, she found that many students did not have other sources of money to pay for various expenses, such as living expenses or plane tickets, and they did not have time to get jobs.
“I don’t necessarily think the sentiment was ‘the scholarship isn’t enough, we deserve more,’ but rather ‘the school is making tons from our performance and many of us are struggling and have other opportunities to make money, so if they aren’t going to provide more money, they shouldn‘t be able to restrict us from pursuing other paths,’ ” Johnson said.
Since the passage of the Fair Pay to Play Act, many other states introduced and passed similar legislation. In mid-2021, the NCAA, which previously banned college athletes from making money from endorsement deals, adopted an interim policy allowing student athletes rights to their name, image and likeness.
Whether the NCAA or any states will allow further compensation for athletes in the future remains to be seen.