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California sets up clash with NCAA by passing bill allowing college athletes to get paid

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Lawmakers have sent the governor a bill to allow athletes at California colleges to hire agents and sign endorsement deals.

It sets up a confrontation with the NCAA that could jeopardize the athletic futures of powerhouse programs like USC, UCLA and Stanford.

The bill would allow athletes at California schools to hire agents and be paid for the use of their name, image or likeness. It would stop universities and the NCAA from banning athletes that take the money.

The Senate passed the bill 39-0 on Wednesday, a few days after it got an endorsement from NBA superstar LeBron James.

It now goes to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has not said whether he’ll sign it.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference in Sacramento, Calif. on July 23, 2019.Rich Pedroncelli / AP file

The NCAA Board of Governors sent a letter Wednesday to Newsom saying the bill would eventually stop California colleges from participating in NCAA competitions.

In the six-paragraph letter to Newsom, the board said the bill would give California schools an unfair recruiting advantage. As a result, the letter says, the NCAA would declare those schools ineligible for its events.

The bill, known as the Fair Pay to Play Act, passed the state Assembly 66-0 on Monday. The state Senate approved the measure 31-5 earlier this year, but a revote was scheduled because of changes made to the original bill.

The NCAA said the legislation would impact more than 24,000 college athletes in the nation’s most populous state.

The board warned that California schools may be declared ineligible for NCAA competition if the bill becomes law because they would have an unfair recruiting advantage.

“We’ve explored how it might impact the association and what it might do. We believe it would inappropriately affect interstate commerce,” Donald Remy, the NCAA’s chief operating officer and chief legal officer, told The Associated Press. “It is not intended to be a threat at all. It’s a reflection about the way California is going about this.

“I’m not saying there will never be a day we would consider that (legal action), but it is not meant to be a threat,” Remy said.

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