NCAA president Mark Emmert wants you to know he’s very concerned that college athletes being able to get endorsements would lead to professionalism within college athletics.
Emmert backed up the NCAA’s stance against an impending California law allowing athletes to get endorsement and sponsorship money on Thursday in an interview with the Indianapolis Star. He said that allowing athletes to get money from their own name and image rights would lead “to a new form of professionalism.”
"This is just a new form of professionalism and a different way of converting students into employees," Emmert told the Star. "[They may be] paid in a fashion different than a paycheck, but that doesn't make them not paid."
The NCAA tried to get California Gov. Gavin Newsom to not sign the Fair Pay to Play Act after the bill allowing athletes to get money from third parties passed the California legislature. In a letter it sent to Newsom in September, the NCAA went so far as to call the bill “uconstitutional” without any explanation and said it would give California schools an unfair recruiting advantage.
A Seton Hall Sports Poll conducted after Newsom signed California’s bill into law effective in 2023 says that 60 percent of the American public feels that college athletes should be allowed to make money off sponsorship and endorsements.
NCAA has contended athletes aren’t employees of schools
The NCAA has long said that athletes are students and are not and should not be classified as employees. College athletes are able to get jobs like any other student under NCAA rules, but part-time jobs are not feasible for many athletes because of the time demands their sport requires. Allowing athletes to take advantage of endorsement opportunities would let them capitalize on their status as athletes like any other student. A college student with a popular Instagram account is able to take endorsements without any issue. Why can’t a college athlete?
The NCAA has a working group co-chaired by Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith that’s meeting in late October to discuss tweaks to the governing body’s rules prohibiting athletes from taking endorsements. But it doesn’t seem likely that the working group will make sweeping recommendations to change the NCAA’s rules.
Emmert was also asked by the Star why the NCAA hadn’t moved to potentially loosen endorsement restrictions a long time ago. Emmert gave a flimsy answer.
"You always want to be more proactive on any of these issues. Do I wish it had been started 10 years ago? Sure but the fact is we were not in a place where we could do it."
If the NCAA still isn’t in a place where it can make sweeping changes on its own, it may soon find itself forced by state and federal governments. Numerous state politicians are following California’s lead and introducing bills allowing athletes to take endorsements and there’s even a federal bill in a U.S. House committee that would allow athletes to capitalize on their own image and likeness rights.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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