NCAA President Mark Emmert: Fair Pay to Play Law Would Make Athletes Employees

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistOctober 4, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - APRIL 04: President of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Mark Emmert speaks to the media ahead of the Men's Final Four at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 04, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images)
Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images

NCAA President Mark Emmert proclaimed on Thursday that under the Fair Pay to Play Act, "for all intents and purposes, athletes become employees of the schools," according to Dana Hunsinger Benbow of the Indianapolis Star.

"This is just a new form of professionalism and a different way of converting students into employees," Emmert said. "[They may be] paid in a fashion different than a paycheck, but that doesn't make them not paid."

On Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 206, making the Golden State the first to allow NCAA student-athletes to profit off their likeness:

The NCAA responded by acknowledging "changes are needed to continue to support student-athletes, but improvement needs to happen on a national level through the NCAA's rules-making process." 

The California Fair Pay to Play Act will not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2023.

Meanwhile, Florida state representative Kionne McGhee has since filed House Bill 251, which would allow student-athletes in the Sunshine State to make money on their image. If passed, the bill would go into effect on July 1, 2020.

According to Charlotte Carroll, formerly of Sports Illustrated, a number of states are working on putting together similar bills. Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, Nevada, Pennsylvania and South Carolina are among those working on proposals.

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Should bills go into effect in only certain states, it would provide universities in those areas with a distinct advantage over competing programs.

The issue for Emmert isn't with compensating student-athletes. He discussed his concerns with Benbow:

"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. Those deals would be arranged with support or engagement of school... so they do become professional employees of schools. That is what most member schools are concerned about, not that people are opposed to have an appropriate way to get some form of (compensation for athletes).

Emmert noted that he is open to an evolved system, though he made it clear to Benbow that a "complete elimination of rules is not acceptable."