It has been a bedrock principle behind college sports: Student-athletes should not be paid beyond the costs of attending a university. California threatened that standard on Monday after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill to allow players to strike endorsement deals and hire agents.
The new law, which is supposed to take effect in 2023, attacks the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s long-held philosophy that college athletes should earn a degree, not money, for playing sports. That view, also under assault in several other states and on Capitol Hill, has held up even as the college sports industry swelled into a behemoth that generated at least $14 billion last year, and as athletes faced mounting demands on their bodies and schedules.
Under the California measure, thousands of student-athletes in America’s most populous state will be allowed to promote products and companies, trading on their sports renown for the first time. And although the law applies only to California, it sets up the possibility that leaders in college sports will eventually have to choose between changing the rules for athletes nationwide or barring some of America’s sports powerhouses from competition.