On Sept. 30, California Gov. Gavin Newsom instituted the Fair Pay to Play Act. Scheduled to go into effect January 2023, the bill permits student athletes attending colleges within the state to hire agents and be paid for endorsements.
This landmark act marks the first instance of collegiate athletes having the ability to profit off their own name, image and likeness. Furthermore, this legislation circumvents the NCAA stern ban on student athletes receiving any compensation for their athletic endeavors, aside from their scholarships.
The Fair Pay to Play Act prohibits the NCAA from retaliating against student athlete or their respective college — for monetizing their name and image. However, the NCAA has formally declared that teams representing colleges in California would be banned from taking part in NCAA competitions when the law goes into effect.
Gonzaga men’s basketball head coach Mark Few offered his comments on the Fair Pay to Play Act to a handful of different media outlets following the bills announcement. Each time, Few reiterated his support of student athletes having the right to profit from their name, image and likeness, so long as that right can be regulated and the playing field stays level.
When prompted for his opinion on the bill in an interview with Stadium’s Jeff Goodman, Few offered his thoughts on the compensation rights of student athletes, as well as Newsom’s decision to interject himself and the state of California to the forefront of this prominent dilemma.
“What I find totally disappointing and just disgusting is that a governor is wasting his time grandstanding around in something that he really doesn’t understand when .00001 percent of his constituents are going to be impacted by this,” Few said in the interview. “He should probably stay in his lane, like I tell my players, figure out homelessness and I think he has a state that borders Mexico and get that mess figured out. And the budget and some things like that.”
Few was extensively condemned for the aforementioned comment and was the recipient of significant backlash on social media. Numerous outlets were quick to tell Few — or at least utilize their Twitter fingers for personal vindication as though they were telling Few — that he was wrong and that he should “take his own advice and stay in his lane.”
If you believe that Few isn’t supportive of student athlete’s receiving compensation for their prowess in college sports, not only did you grossly misinterpret this quote, you clearly didn’t have the attention span to watch Stadium’s 3 minute 48 second video clip in its entirety.
“If there was a way we could monetize [student athlete] likeness and regulate it in a way to keep a fair playing field for everybody, then I’m all for it,” Few said in the interview.
This past May, the NCAA established a committee to examine and develop practical solutions for reconstructing their name, image and likeness rights. The working group, comprised of numerous university athletic directors and Power Five conference commissioners, has spent the past several months evaluating the issue.
This committee is precisely what Few was referring to “I think we’ve got a great group of people working on that,” Few said during the interview.
Personally, I stand behind coach Few’s criticism of Newsom and the Fair Pay to Play Act.
Since the announcement of the bill, officials from the PAC-12 conference have expressed their concern that the law will have “very significant negative consequences,” largely predicated on the fact that law would prohibit schools in California from participating in NCAA events.
By virtue of signing the Fair Pay to Play Act into law, Newsom has not resolved the predicament at hand, but instead created an immense sense of confusion among both current and future student athletes in California.
It is because of this uncertainty surrounding the bill that I agree with coach Few’s sentiment that Newsom should “stay in his own lane” and leave the setting of this dilemma to the people who have been invested in this industry for years.
I can respect the notion of applying pressure on the NCAA to force them to finally act on this issue, but enacting a law that could ultimately result in California schools being banned from NCAA competition is definitely not the right way to go about it.
The NCAA has explicitly acknowledged that change is needed. As such, they should be the ones to dictate what those changes are and when they take place. If this change comes from state politicians, however, the result will be nothing more than turmoil and the elimination of a “fair playing field for everybody.”