The NCAA responded to the California State Assembly’s passage of a bill that would allow college athletes to more easily make money off their own name, image and likeness starting Jan. 1, 2023, by sending a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Wednesday that says if the bill becomes law, it “would result in (schools) being unable to compete in NCAA competitions” and would be “unconstitutional.”
Reference to the bill’s legality signals the NCAA’s potential willingness to sue California under the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, which says that only Congress has the power to regulate commerce among states.
The letter is signed by every member of the NCAA Board of Governors, the association’s top policy- and rules-making group.
In an interview with USA TODAY Sports, Ohio State President Michael Drake, who chairs the board of governors, confirmed that the association would consider legal action if the bill becomes law.
“We’ve looked at this very, very carefully and it does raise constitutional challenges,” Drake said, “so that’s something that would be looked at … yes.”
The bill’s author, state Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) not only took issue with the NCAA’s legal analysis, she also countered-punched.
“Numerous legal scholars assert that SB 206 is constitutional and that an NCAA ban of California colleges from championship competition is a clear violation of federal anti-trust law,” she said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports. “The NCAA has repeatedly lost anti-trust cases in courts … As a result, threats are their primary weapon.”
The letter to Newsom said: “If the bill becomes law and California’s 58 NCAA schools are compelled to allow an unrestricted name, image and likeness scheme, it would erase the critical distinction between college and professional athletics and, because it gives those schools an unfair recruiting advantage, would result in them eventually being unable to compete in NCAA competitions.”
The bill cleared the State Assembly by a 73-0 margin after all tallies were counted. It is expected to pass a concurrence vote in the State Senate as early as Wednesday. The Senate had approved the bill, 31-5, but amendments made in the Assembly required its reconsideration by the Senate.
Newsom will have 30 days to sign or veto the bill. If he takes no action, the bill would become law. His office has not responded to an inquiry regarding his position on the bill.
“With more than 1,100 schools and nearly 500,000 student-athletes across the nation, the rules and policies of college sports must be established through the Association’s collaborative governance system,” the letter reads. “A national model of collegiate sport requires mutually agreed upon rules. …
“We urge the state of California to reconsider this harmful and, we believe, unconstitutional bill and hope the state will be a constructive partner in our efforts to develop a fair name, image and likeness approach for all 50 states.”