PAY STUDENT ATHLETES NOW!

Athletes for Impact, an inclusive and growing global network of athletes committed to change, is dedicated to supporting student athletes in their ongoing struggle with fair pay for work.

A political earthquake occurred recently in California that has shaken the NCAA to its core.  The California State Senate unanimously passed the “Fair Pay to Play Act” and California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Democratic state Senator Nancy Skinner’s bill into law, which allows college athletes to get a cut of the profit they generate from their labor. Specifically, the bill stipulates that college student athletes are now eligible to generate earnings from the use of their names, images, and likenesses.

Immediately, the NCAA predictably opposed the Fair Pay to Play Act with NCAA president Mark Emmert stoking fears that it could cause an existential threat to collegiate sports stating, “The biggest worry is that when you have complete unfettered licensing agreements or unfettered endorsement deals, the model of college athletics is negligible at best and maybe doesn’t even exist.”

For all the hysteria, the new law does not even allow schools to pay players directly—it simply grants players the right to receive money from outside sources such as autographs, advertising, T-shirt sales, or having their likeness used in video games. However, with California passing this historic legislation along with members of Congress and more than a dozen other states saying that they too would soon pass similar legislation, the NCAA recoiled and has accepted the bill to allow athletes to “benefit” from their name, image, and likeness – but we have an incredibly long road ahead.

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Athletes for Impact seeks to amplify the voices of athletes who are speaking up for the fair compensation of student athletes.  As six-time All-American artistic gymnast Katelyn Ohashi said, “The NCAA is a billion-dollar industry built on the backs of college athletes. How different would things be for me had I been able to use my image and name my last year of school in order to promote the things I want to further my future? I want to make sure the next person doesn’t have to wonder.”

In addition, Ohashi addressed the false narrative being spun by the NCAA that paying college athletes would detract from women’s sports or other supports that don’t create high revenue for the colleges.  She said, “It’s about recognizing that women only receive four percent of all coverage in sports media and giving us the freedom to leverage sponsored deals to break through… Critics say that allowing student-athletes to earn endorsement income will come at the expense of Title IX or non-revenue generating sports. But from experience, allowing an athlete — especially women or Olympic-sport athletes, who, for the most part, are staying and graduating from NCAA institutions — to take advantage of unexpected moments like I had empowers us to help finally earn what we deserve.”

In addition, the institutional racism at play has been widely observed in that the two biggest revenue-generating sports in the NCAA, basketball and football, have a majority of Black athletes—and yet the profits from their labor go to predominantly white executives.

While we applaud the NCAA for allowing college athletes the rights to their likeness, we remain vigilant, as the NCAA Board of Governors have agreed only on instructing the three divisions of NCAA sports to construct a “framework” that will allow athletes to “benefit” from their own name, image, and likeness “in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.” As such, Athletes for Impact will continue to support the full implementation of the Fair Play to Act, including federal legislation, to ensure that all student athletes are fairly compensated.

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