Columnists Opinion Starlett Quarles

THE X FACTOR: Shaping the financial future of college athletes

If you’re a fan of HBO’s “The Shop: Uninterrupted,” then you recently saw the episode where California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Fair Pay to Play Act, or Senate Bill 206; which will now allow college athletes to monetize their name, image and likeness.

Historically, the NCAA has banned student athletes from earning compensation through sports. But now, due to SB 206, they will be able to monetize their brand, hire sports agents, and receive paid endorsement deals without the fear of losing their scholarships. And one of the state senators who wrote this extraordinary act was state Sen. Steven Bradford of the 35th District.

In addition to SB 206, this quiet giant has had over 65 bills signed into law since being in the Senate and the Assembly, including: AB 651 (Expungement), AB 2634 (Civil Rights), and AB 128 (Reclassify LA World Airport Police).

We recently discussed his latest legislative success.

SQ: What inspired you to propose Senate Bill 206?

SB: Bill 206 was inspired by a history of working around student athletes, coaching football for a number of years and my colleague, [state Sen.] Nancy Skinner, suggesting that we look at this as an issue whose time has come.

We’ve known [about this issue] for a long time. This is not a new discussion. I mean … Kareem Abdul Jabbar has championed this issue, or discussed this issue, in the past; and people like professor Harry Edwards. [So] we felt now was the time.

SQ: Were you ever a student athlete?

SB: In high school, yeah; but not in college. But I’ve gone to school with plenty of them. And I know that even though they were on scholarship, I had more money in my pocket on any given day than they did. Just because you’re on scholarship, college expenses are far more than just tuition, books and even lodging. You still struggle even with a scholarship.

SQ: How long have you personally been trying to get Bill 206 passed?

SB: This is our first year doing it.

SQ: Wow, so you got this bill passed on the first try?

SB: Yes. And I think Sen. Kevin Murray tried to [pass] the bill about 12 years ago when he was in the Legislature. And I don’t think anyone has done anything with it since.

SQ: Congratulations. So when will this historic bill take effect?

SB: 2023. So we have three years to figure out all the little “nooks and crannies;” and … roadblocks that people are throwing our way. We’ll work all those (things) out.

SQ: What about professional athletes? Which ones have embraced and supported Bill 206?

SB: Well this was really inspired by Ed O’Bannon from UCLA. It wasn’t until years after he had left college, and he’s playing a video game and all of a sudden, there he was. His name, likeness and image was in a video game. He sued EA Sports for using his likeness.

It was a long, protracted lawsuit because [EA Sports] felt that he was not entitled to his name, likeness and image. But he was successful in that suit a number of years ago. So he’s been one of the biggest champions [for Bill 206].

But (also) people like Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant and LeBron James.

SQ: What about Reggie Bush?

Reggie Bush hasn’t [publicly] supported it, but [he’s] a prime example why [Bill 206] is important. Because his parents wouldn’t have needed to receive all the money under the table that they did, or folks wouldn’t have been offering it to his parents; if in fact, there was a way for him to directly monetize his name, likeness and image so he could afford to pay for college.

Yea, the reason he lost his Heisman Trophy was because of the boosters who were paying under the table.

SQ: You mentioned how this bill will impact female athletes.

SB: As you are well aware, outside of basketball and soccer, there’s very little opportunity in professional sports for women. Usually their time to shine is in those four years in college; whether you’re a track star, swimmer or … tennis. If you don’t go pro, that’s usually your only opportunity.

Even the UCLA gymnast at UCLA, the one who scored all those 10s — she had an agent as soon as she left college. But her marketing value went down as soon as she left UCLA. She has no place really to show her talent outside of the Olympics and World Gymnastics meets, which are not every day, or every week or even once a month.

So there are very few [professional] opportunities for female athletes.

SQ: So what do you want parents of athletes to know and understand how Bill 206 is going to impact their children in the future?

SB: We hope it incentivizes students to stay in school longer … especially [in] basketball. [Because] we’ve all heard the term over the last 10-15 years: “one and done;” [when athletes] meet the one year requirement … play one year of basketball and then they go immediately to the NBA.

As we saw last year with Zion Williamson, who was the number one recruit in the nation. But the only reason he went one year [to college], because it was kind of like an obligation to get his skills up. And when the pros saw that he was ready, he left college.

So now if you’re able to monetize your name, likeness and image while you’re in college, that’s not only going to incentivize you to stay in college longer, but to possibly even graduate. So that should be encouraging for parents to know that their kids will stay in school and get that college degree.

Starlett Quarles is a Gen X Advocate, public speaker and host of the internet TV Talk Show, “The Dialogue with Starlett Quarles.” For more, please visit www.TheDialogueLA.com.