California Lawmakers Upsetting Traditions of College Athletics

Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 206 allowing college athletes to prosper from the use of their name, image and likeness.  Perhaps in the end the law balances for some college athletes the potential side effects of the state’s travel ban that could undermine college teams from participating against certain rivals. For better and for worse, California lawmakers are upsetting a century of traditions in college athletics. 

supported SB 206 because it reinforced the concept of individualism, which may be out of fashion in a world based on identity politics.   

College athletes should capitalize on their hard work and abilities when others are using their images and names to create moneymaking ventures such as selling shirts with the athlete’s name or using their statistics to create video games. 

Anecdotally, there seems to be support for the concept on college campuses, which carries along the side benefit of introducing college kids to the positives of capitalism, which they probably don’t get too much of in the classroom. 

The NCAA thinks compensating college athletes is a terrible idea potentially upsetting competitive balance between college sports teams, not to mention undercutting the NCAA’s power. As retribution, the organization has raised the prospect of denying the opportunity for the state’s college athletic teams to compete for national championships in their respective sports. 

After signing the bill, Gov. Newsom dismissed that idea saying, “They can’t afford to lose the state of California. It’s truly a nation-state, and the economic consequences would be profound.” 

I would suggest the governor consider the profound economic consequences of other bills he signed like AB 5 upending the gig economy–but I digress. 

The NCAA could achieve the pushback against California schools without instituting a prohibition against the California schools by tangling with another Golden State law—the state travel ban on state sponsored entities to states that pass laws that conflict with California “values,” particularly on gays, transgenders and others. 

The NCAA could simply schedule all the championship contests in states that are on California’s banned list for state travel. Teams at public universities could not go.

But wait. Exemptions were provided for public colleges to travel to those forbidden states for championship competition. Far be if for the legislature to get in the way over California schools capturing national titles that could open the wallets of donors to the university system. If that happened the legislature would have to fill the funding gap. 

How long the exemptions for college sports teams will last is another question. It appears as a hypocrisy of convenience. 

And what if states on the California banned list decide to strike back and ban official travel to California. 

Are we seeing the beginning of an economic war between the states if that occurs? Are we treading closer to the courts intervening on the basis of the US Constitution’s Commerce Clause?

Some have interpreted the Commerce Clause as affecting a broad perspective of both commercial and social interactions between citizens of different states to guard against retaliatory measures that the clause was designed to prevent.

Whether such a challenge against the travel ban comes forward remains to be seen. But certainly the California legislature’s run at the NCAA is going to unsettle the institution and create confusion for student athletes.

Joel Fox is editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily