California bill SB 206 unanimously passed with bipartisan support, and the NCAA is not happy. This bill would allow students to be compensated for use of their likeness and image. So, a college athlete can be in a car commercial and get paid for it. Crazy, right? Well the NCAA says it will “upend” the collegiate system and says that athletes “are not employees of the school”. They’re right, profiting off of someone’s work that is done without pay isn’t employment, it’s worse.
So what does this mean for collegiate esports? First of all, the fact that this bill passed in the state that is the headquarters of esports for the entire world is huge. Some of the biggest and most advanced collegiate esports programs are located in California. This means that colleges outside of California will need to shell out more money in scholarships to attract people to their programs. This might sound like it can stunt the growth of collegiate esports but if esports athletes are able to profit of use of their image and likeness, then that means a company out there values their image and likeness. If these athletes have recognition that companies deem valuable, then that means people are paying attention to collegiate esports. The more people see the image and likeness of college esports athletes, the more they will want to get involved. That’s good for everybody.
As this is a blog that deals a lot with collegiate esports, then you can bet that I’ve complained a lot about the NCAA. Frankly, its antiquated. A bill like this challenges the organization that has a complete monopoly on college sports and can force them to change for the better.
Only time will really be able to tell how this affects not only traditional sports, but esports as well. I’m optimistic that this is a sign that we’re moving in the right direction.