Assemblymember Holden Introduces Legislation to Protect College Athletes from Harmful NCAA Policies

Sacramento (CA) – In the midst of March Madness, Assemblymember Chris Holden announced introduction of his legislation, Assembly Bill 2747, the College Athletes Civil Rights Act of 2018, to protect to college athletes from harmful policies by the National College Athletics Association (NCAA). The legislation would allow college athletes to self-organize, create the possibility of the “Olympic Model” for college athletes such as commercial sponsorship, and help protect college athletes from abuses by college coaches, trainers, and other athletic staff. If adopted, the legislation would be the first law in the country to regulate the NCAA.

“College athletes are playing in an exploitive system where the NCAA makes billions in profits while they are forced to pursue higher education without the same rights and financial freedoms as any other student on campus,” said Assemblymember Chris Holden. “These athletes are not able to self-organize like any other student group on campus, and can face retaliation by university officials and coaching staff for expressing their opinions or reporting any abuses.”

“For years, I have been publicly advocating on behalf of student athletes who have been treated like indentured servants,” said Kareem Abdul – Jabar in response to the legislation. “While earning billions of dollars for others, they have received very little in return and live in the terrifying uncertainty that they are just one injury away from losing not just their future in professional sports, for those who wish one, but also the crucial scholarship money that provides their education to give them a future beyond sports.”

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Assembly Bill 2747 adopts language from the Nation Labor Relations Board General Counsel memorandum under President Obama declaring that college athletes are employees with the right to self-organization and to be protected from retaliation while they are engaged in concerted activities for mutual aid and protection. This provision in Assembly Bill 2747 would allow players to come together to protect themselves in a variety of ways including, but not limited to, unionization.

“NCAA sports is a predatory industry. It investigates and punishes players who receive a few dollars for an autograph but is nowhere to be found when players are abused or die in hazardous workout conditions,” said Ramogi Huma, National College Players Association Executive Director and President of the College Athletes Players Association. “The ability to self-organize without retaliation can be the difference between life and death. It is long overdue.”

Assembly Bill 2747 would create the “Olympic Model” as a fair system to allow college athletes to pursue economic opportunities using their own name, image, and likeness.

The NCAA and its member institutions provide more than 460,000 college athletes the opportunity to compete each year, while many critics say is also an enterprise rife with structural contradictions, even to the point of hypocrisy and trickery.

Many athletics power brokers such as coaches, athletic directors, conference commissioners, and externalities benefit from this multibillion dollar business enterprise, yet Division I college athletes, who make tremendous sacrifices, receive very little in return. They may spend more than 40 hours per week on sport-related activities, expose themselves to life-threatening and life-altering injuries, are often directed to pursue majors that allow greater flexibility in scheduling or that are perceived to present fewer academic challenges to their sports eligibility, fail to earn a college degree in certain sports, and do not receive equitable compensation for their athletic labor. The results of these sacrifices can be far-reaching, and college athletes too often are the biggest losers in this arrangement.

“It is painfully apparent that college athletes in revenue-generating sports are denied their fair market value. They are not receiving basic protections as well, including guaranteed multiyear athletic scholarships to help them complete their college degrees, and adequate health benefits for their sacrifices and contributions to the athletics enterprise,” said University of California, Riverside Professor Eddie Comeaux. “With an eye toward fully including athletes in the business model of college athletics, the proposed “Olympic Model” would be a reasonable first step to address these concerns by providing college athletes with commercial opportunities, payment for their status as amateurs, and even an incentive to complete their college degree in a timely manner.”

Assembly Bill 2747 includes provisions that could protect college athletes from some of the worst abuses seen on college campuses such as sexual assault. University officials were aware of allegations of sexual abuses but never reported any of it to law enforcement at Penn State University with Jerry Sandusky and Michigan State University with Larry Nassar. The proposed legislation would designate NCAA employees, coaching staff, and other university officials as mandated reporters and require them to report to law enforcement agencies any abuse or neglect.