By: Guadalupe Perez, Mireya Tagle, Pavel Pilipenko; contributing writers
Getting compensated for talent is far from a radical concept, but it is a complicated matter in college sports.
Earlier this year, the California State Legislature introduced Senate Bill 206, which would allow student-athletes to use their names, images and likenesses for monetary gain.
On Sept. 9, the California State Assembly unanimously approved SB 206 with 73-0 votes and 31-5 votes in the Senate. Gov. Gavin Newsom has 30 days to either sign or veto the measure which would go into effect starting Jan. 2023.
With time ticking, Athletics Director Andy Fee and Long Beach State officials are working to try to find a middle ground where all athletes can benefit without facing potential repercussions.
“Should Gov. Newsom sign this bill…my goal will be to continue a discussion with lawmakers and all affected parties to find a compromise to SB 206 which allows the NCAA to maintain its amateur framework, and enhance the experience for all NCAA student-athletes,” Fee said.
Despite the support from countless public figures such as LeBron James and Bernie Sanders, Fee said that although the bill sounds great in theory, it could hurt CSULB and have unintended consequences for its student-athletes.
SB 206 was first introduced by Sen. Nancy Skinner and Sen. Steven Bradford. Known as the “Fair Pay to Play Act,” the bill would allow California college athletes to be compensated for their play. It would also give college athletes the possibility to work with agents and sign endorsement deals. However, community colleges will be exempt from being paid.
Fee fears that SB 206 could have direct consequences for international student-athletes at the Beach. International student-athletes can study and play sports while being on an F1 visa, however, it poses restrictions on employment.
“What I hope is that student-athletes understand it will affect their eligibility,” Fee said.
If international student-athletes were to sign a deal with a company that results in them getting compensated, they could then face severe immigration repercussions, which could lead to deportation.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the F1 visa allows students to work on campus during the first academic year, but any “off-campus employment must be related to their area of study and must be authorized prior to starting any work by the designated school official.”
“There are three exceptions for student-athletes [for work]…all have to be tied with your academics,” Fee said.
Another potential issue is California schools’ eligibility for NCAA sanctioned events.
“We could see championship opportunities taken away from our student-athletes,” Fee said.
The 58 California institutions that participate in NCAA sanctioned competitions would come to a faceoff with the NCAA. California institutions would no longer be able to compete against states that do not pay student athletes because the players would be classified as professionals while other players would still be amateurs.
“Ultimately you won’t get your name out there if you don’t play [for] championships,” sophomore Dirtbags’ infielder Brennan Rozell said.
To get around this would be to not play the sponsored athlete, that way no NCAA rules are being broken by the school, Fee said.
“The university isn’t required to play that student-athlete…we wouldn’t allow those players to break a [NCAA] rule,” Fee said.
Schools outside of California could also see it as unfair to compete against programs who have an advantage when it comes to recruiting because athletes will be attracted to the opportunity for pay and recognition.
Fee added that sponsors may have to make a choice in the future about advertising with the school or paying a student-athlete.
CSULB receives $500,000 to $1 million in sponsorship money a year, Fee said. If a sponsor chooses to support a student-athlete instead, the athletics department could lose revenue.
“Men’s basketball has a preseason game against the University of Arizona…we’re getting $9,000 [for that game],” Fee said. “That helps with our bottom line.”
According to Fee, the revenue that is earned from preseason games help pay for tutors and trainers that assist the student-athletes.
Two strong advocates for SB 206 include basketball star LeBron James and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Both have emphasized the impact this bill will have on the lives of student-athletes via Twitter:
“This law is a GAME CHANGER. College athletes can responsibly get paid for what they do and the billions they create,” James tweeted.
Fee said that he’s not against the conversation, but he would prefer a more appropriate suggestion that wouldn’t put CSULB student-athletes at a disadvantage.
The NCAA directed a letter to Newsom, which stated:
“NCAA member schools already are working on changing rules for all student-athletes to appropriately use their name, image and likeness in accordance with our values — but not pay them to play.”
Fee was skeptical about the possibility of other states signing similar laws and therefore pressuring NCAA to pay student-athletes across the nation.
“How do you get all 50 states to sign the same legislature? One approach could be to look at it through the federal level. That could be more plausible,” Fee said.
Since the beginning of the NCAA, membership rules have been rigid. Fee said he doesn’t believe that the NCAA will ever vote in favor of paying student-athletes.
“We’re here to support our student-athletes,” Fee said. “We really want them to have the best possible experience here in the classroom and on the field of competition. I don’t want someone to do something not knowing the consequences.”
Manuel Valladeres, assistant sports editor, contributed to this article.