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California Law Allows College Athletes To Profit From Endorsements


California is the first state to pass a law letting student athletes make money from their sports. This breaks with the NCAA prohibition on students profiting while playing. In 2023, athletes at all California colleges can make money from the use of their names and images.

Here's Capital Public Radio's Scott Rodd.

SCOTT RODD, BYLINE: The athletics complex at Sacramento State is bustling. The university's softball team takes in-field drills as nearby tennis players volley shots back and forth.

Hector Grajeda is the goalie for the men's soccer team and just finished a workout. Like all college athletes, he doesn't earn a dime for his hard work on the field. He's also had to turn down opportunities that could have raised his profile as an athlete.

HECTOR GRAJEDA: There's been agents that have wanted to represent me, but because there's certain NCAA rules, I've said no, you know. That would've come with, like, free items, free gear and whatnot. But the NCAA rules are so strict.

RODD: The new law in California could change that for future students. Athletes at California colleges will be able to earn money from advertisements and endorsements. The law will also let them take coaching gigs on the side and monetize their online following on platforms like YouTube.

The NCAA opposed the legislation. They declined an interview request but said in a statement the law will create confusion about the rules at college programs.

Grajeda says the change is overdue.

GRAJEDA: They're making millions off of these players, and these players aren't getting anything, you know. You've heard of stories of players starving, you know. I think it's great that they're finally going to get paid, you know. I think they deserve it.

RODD: California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the law on a special episode of HBO's "The Shop," surrounded by star athletes, including LeBron James and Diana Taurasi.

Speaking with host Maverick Carter, Newsom said the law is about addressing the power imbalance between student athletes and the schools that profit off their skills.


MAVERICK CARTER: When you put pen to paper right now, what's this going to change and what's it going to do?

GAVIN NEWSOM: It's going to initiate dozens of other states to introduce similar legislation, and it's going to change college sports for the better, by having now the interests, finally, of the athletes on par with the interests of the institutions.

RODD: States such as Florida, South Carolina and New York are considering similar proposals.

Some critics say the new law will mainly help elite athletes at top universities land big endorsement deals.

But former UC Berkeley rower and two-time Olympic gold medalist Erin Cafaro says it could benefit many college players who aren't in the limelight, especially female athletes.

ERIN CAFARO: For a lot of women's sports, this is the end of the line, right? This is the peak of their athletic competition. We're doing it for the love of the sport, but if there is an opportunity for us to have some sort of, you know, financial support, then I'm all for that.

RODD: The NCAA previously said California schools could be banned from championships if the law passed, but Newsom said the association can't afford that.

For NPR News, I'm Scott Rod in Sacramento.

(SOUNDBITE OF EVIL NEEDLE'S "LOUNGIN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Rodd