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Pac-12, LeBron James, Draymond Green and NCAA react to California’s plan to let NCAA athletes make money

LeBron James and many other athletes celebrated the bill’s signing.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom talks with reporters at the 52nd Annual Native American Day in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
California Gov. Gavin Newsom talks with reporters at the 52nd Annual Native American Day in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Sept. 27, 2019.
Rich Pedroncelli, Associated Press

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday he signed the law that will now let athletes in California universities make money from their images, names or likenesses, The Associated Press reports.

The bill will likely set up a legal battle with the NCAA after the association’s Board of Governors asked Newsom to veto the bill, which, they said, “would erase the critical distinction between college and professional athletes.”

The board warned that California schools may now have an unfair recruiting tool, which would lead them to be barred from competing in the NCAA. Schools like University of Southern California, University of California, Los Angeles, Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, would be banned.

The NCAA released a statement about the plan, saying it will consider next steps as California (and possibly other states) look to build new plans.

The Pac-12 Conference responded to the plan as well.

“The Pac-12 is disappointed in the passage of SB 206 and believes it will have very significant negative consequences for our student-athletes and broader universities in California. This legislation will lead to the professionalization of college sports and many unintended consequences related to this professionalism, imposes a state law that conflicts with national rules, will blur the lines for how California universities recruit student-athletes and compete nationally, and will likely reduce resources and opportunities for student-athletes in Olympic sports and have a negative disparate impact on female student-athletes.

“Our universities have led important student-athlete reform over the past years, but firmly believe all reforms must treat our student-athletes as students pursuing an education, and not as professional athletes. We will work with our universities to determine next steps and ensure continuing support for our student-athletes.”

While the legal battle still remains unclear, several athletes across social media celebrated Newsom’s decision to sign the bill. None was more prominent than LeBron James, who tweeted out a video of Newsom signing the bill on James’ HBO talk show, “The Shop.”

“I’m so incredibly proud to share this moment with all of you. @gavinnewsom came to ‘The Shop’ to do something that will change the lives for countless athletes who deserve it! @uninterrupted hosted the formal signing for SB 206 allowing college athletes to responsibly get paid,” James tweeted.

See the video below.

James later explained in an interview the importance of the decision, per USA Today.

“For sure I would have been one of those kids if I would have went off to Ohio State or if I went off to any one of these big-time colleges where pretty much that 23 jersey would have got sold all over the place without my name on the back. But everybody would’ve known the likeness. My body would have been on the NCAA basketball game, 2004. The Schottenstein Center would have been sold out every single night if I was there. Coming from just me and my mom, we didn’t have anything. We wouldn’t have been able to benefit at all from it. And the university would’ve been able to capitalize on everything that I would’ve been there for that year or two or whatever.

“I understand what those kids are going through. I feel for those kids who’ve been going through it for so long. So, that’s why it was personal to me.”

Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green and other athletes also weighed in on the announcement.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban weighed in on the decision. He said students could lose their scholarships if they don’t play well enough.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘What happens if they got fired?’” Cuban said, according to Fox News. “‘What happens if you want to fire him? Do we want to start firing student-athletes?’”

“My guess is, and this is only a guess, that the NCAA may implode, particularly as it applies to football,” he said.

The question of whether or not to pay college athletes for their names and images has been going on for years. Tim Tebow slammed the piece of legislation in an interview in September, as reported by the Deseret News.

“I feel like I have a little credibility and knowledge about this,” he began. After all, his No. 15 jersey was a huge seller during his time at the University of Florida, and he didn’t make any money from it.

“Nor did I want to,” he added. “Because I knew going into college what it was all about.”

Similarly, Washington State football coach Mike Leach criticized the piece of legislation. He didn’t give any specifics.

Marquette University sports law professor Matthew Mitten told the Deseret News that California probably shouldn’t be alone in its thinking.

“The bottom line is there should be a national solution instead of a state-by-state solution,” he said. “It’s just not workable.”

Tim Nevius, a young NCAA infractions investigator, told the Deseret News that a plan like this could help athletes.

“This goes far beyond big sneaker deals for the top athletes,” he said. “This relates to the way that anyone can use their name, image and likeness, including in generating extra income through social media platforms; through self-employment; and a variety of other means.”