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California's Game-Changing Plan to Get Student Athletes Paid

A new bill in California would give college athletes the right to their name, image, and likeness.

by Steven Roberts and Alexander Stockton
Aug 30 2019, 6:07pm

College sports is a multibillion-dollar industry, but its arguably greatest assets, the players themselves, are prohibited from getting anything more than a scholarship for their efforts. A California State Senator is looking to change that.

The bill, proposed by Democrat Nancy Skinner and fellow Senator Steven Bradford, would allow student athletes from California public colleges and universities to make money “as a result of the student’s name, image, or likeness” — which the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) currently prohibits. That would be a game-changer for students like Katelyn Ohashi, a former UCLA gymnast who went viral following a jaw-dropping routine that earned her a perfect ten score and 58 million views on YouTube.

“If she tried to monetize her YouTube viewership, she would be kicked out of NCAA, whereas if I were clever enough and had some skills on a trampoline or something and I got that many viewers, I could make money off of it,” Skinner told VICE News “So that's really what we're doing is giving the right for college athletes the right that all the rest of us have.

Under the new rules, schools also couldn’t pull or reduce student athletes' scholarships if and when they do start to make money off their skills. Though the bill passed in the State Senate, it still has a long way to go. A version needs to pass out of committee in the State Assembly Friday before being scheduled for a full floor vote.

The new rules, if approved, would take would take effect in 2023. Though the bill only affects students in California, many other states have proposed similar legislation and could follow California’s lead.

“The freedom to explore what this market could become is central to American values, economic values,” said Hayley Hodson, a former Stanford volleyball player who saw her career cut short due to concussions. “This bill SB 206 has a huge opportunity to empower athletes to make the most of their gifts and talents and give them a voice in a way that they currently don't have at the NCAA level.”

This segment originally aired August 29, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.