Let College Athletes Earn Money, California Lawmaker Says

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Taking a shot at the NCAA, a former Division I basketball player-turned-California lawmaker announced a proposal that would allow student athletes to accept paid endorsements and bargain with universities for benefits.

Under Assembly Bill 2747, California amateur athletes would be allowed to unionize and accept sponsorships while they are still in school. Assemblyman Chris Holden says his bill would be the first of its kind and a boon to thousands of student athletes he claims are being used by major universities.

“College athletes are playing in an exploitive system where the NCAA makes billions in profits while they are forced to pursue higher education without the same rights and financial freedoms as any other student on campus,” Holden, D-Pasadena, said in a statement.

Holden, who played basketball in the 1980s at San Diego State University, wants lawmakers to approve the “Olympic Model” which would “allow the NCAA’s over 460,000 athletes to pursue economic opportunities using their own name, image and likeness.” His bill would align California amateurs with Olympic athletes who are free to profit from their achievements by negotiating personal endorsements and taking money for autographs.

Former UCLA basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar gave the measure an assist Wednesday, saying colleges treat athletes like “indentured servants.” The Hall of Fame 7-foot 2-inch center led UCLA to three-straight championships under legendary coach John Wooden.

“While earning billions of dollars for others, they have received very little in return and live in the terrifying uncertainty that they are just one injury away from losing not just their future in professional sports for those who wish one, but also the crucial scholarship money that provides their education to give them a future beyond sports,” Abdul-Jabbar said in a statement.

The proposal would also require coaches, trainers and other university staff to report to law enforcement instances of athlete abuse. Holden says the provision is in response to scandals at Penn State University and Michigan State University, where school officials neglected to relay reports of sexual abuse to law enforcement.

University of California, Riverside professor Eddie Comeaux says AB 2747 would give student athletes the opportunity to negotiate guaranteed scholarships and even improved health benefits with schools.

“It is painfully apparent that college athletes in revenue-generating sports are denied their fair market value,” he said in a statement. “They are not receiving basic protections as well, including guaranteed multiyear athletic scholarships to help them complete their college degrees, and adequate health benefits for their sacrifices and contributions to the athletics enterprise.”

Holden’s measure has been referred to the Assembly Higher Education Committee.


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