California Senate Bill Aims To Compensate College Athletes


Image via The Ringer


In February, California State Senator Steven Bradford introduced the College Athlete Race and Gender Equity Act. The bill currently sits with the California Senate Appropriations Committee, and a decision on whether it will move forward will be announced on Thursday, May 19.


In 2019, California Governor Gavin Newson signed into law Senate Bill 206, a bill also led by Senator Steven Bradford along with Senator Nancy Skinner, which made California the first state in the nation to enact a bill allowing college athletes to be compensated for their name, image, and likeness (NIL).


Now, with the NCAA in a period of transforming itself after enacting a new constitution and utilizing the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in NCAA v. Alston, California is seizing the opportunity to shape the future through the College Athlete Race and Gender Equity Act.


The College Athlete Race and Gender Equity Act


The act begins by declaring certain findings, including:


  • College athletes of color in football and men’s basketball graduate at lower rates than other students;

  • Black athletes experience educational neglect due to a range of issues; and

  • California Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) football players and Division I men and women basketball players are predominantly black and do not receive at least 50 percent of the revenue they produce.


Therefore, to combat the findings, the act requires California colleges and universities to establish a degree completion fund for its athletes. To finance the fund, California colleges and universities must split 50% of each sport’s revenue with the athletes for that sport. Thus, the act is a major win for college athletes in California.


On the surface, the act flips the NCAA model on its head by forcing programs to pay their players for their performance, which is not allowed under NCAA rules. As previously noted, the NCAA has been hands-off in enforcing its policies, including its interim NIL policy. If the California act were to pass, it would force the NCAA to decide whether to enforce its policy and risk exposing itself to antitrust lawsuits (Alston held that NCAA rules restricting certain compensation provided by schools to athletes could be antitrust violations) or allow California’s pay-for-play system and risk other pay-for-play systems popping up in other states.


The act demonstrates how the state of California, led by Senator Steven Bradford, is willing to lead the way in changing laws to compensate college athletes. If The College Athlete Race and Gender Equity Act is signed into law, California will be testing the expanse of the Alston holding and the willpower of the NCAA.


Landis Barber is an attorney at Safran Law Offices in Raleigh, North Carolina. You can connect with him via LinkedIn or via his blog offthecourtdocket.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Landisbarber.