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College athletes could get paid under California bill

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FILE - In this Feb. 28, 2019, file photo, UCLA forward Cody Riley, right, grabs a rebound away from Southern California guard Kevin Porter Jr. during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles. The NCAA’s Board of Governors is urging Gov. Gavin Newsom not to sign a California bill that would allow college athletes to receive money for their names, likenesses or images. In a 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. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

College athletes have been given scholarships, not salaries, for playing sports in school for generations but a bill passed in California would allow athletes to get paid another way. The bill passed by both the California House and Senate would allow student-athletes to sign endorsement deals.

The idea has been praised by athletes like LeBron James, who skipped college to go directly to the NBA and has been a critic of the NCAA.

"This law is a GAME CHANGER," James tweeted. "College athletes can responsibly get paid for what they do and the billions they create."

The NCAA Board of Governors sent a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom urging him to reject the bill saying it would be an unfair recruiting advantage for California schools.

“It might be obvious to (a recruit) to go to UCLA because, as a prominent player, I have the ability to benefit financially from my name, image, likeness through things like personal endorsement deals," said Andrew Wonders, a sport business management professor at Cedarville University.

The NCAA also said the plan would "erase the critical distinction between college and professional athletes".

“It’s no surprise that they would be opposed to it at current time," Wonders said. "They’re trying to protect, as a whole, college athletics.”

Industry experts said the NCAA has loosened its compensation rules in recent years, allowing for more living stipends. In 2015, Ohio State stopped selling jersey numbers for star players. Instead, the university would sell jerseys with the year on it.

Wonders said one of the biggest reasons why student-athletes have more leverage to demand more is because of social media.

“If you start to look at number of followers that certain individual players have, that goes well beyond and creates a brand-new source of value to them individually than just selling jerseys alone every would have," he said.

He said other states are considering similar proposals. The California Senate must approve some changes made by the House before that legislation heads to the governor's desk for his signature.

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