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Stalled in Washington but passed in California, college athlete compensation law could spur change

Young Kwak
AP File Photo
Washington guards Matisse Thybulle (4) and David Crisp (1) walk off the court after the team's game against Washington State in Pullman, Wash.

A new law signed this week in California will allow college athletes to eventually make money from advertising that uses their name and image. It's similar to legislation that was introduced in Washington this past legislative session but never made it to a vote. KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel told Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick it's time to force the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to change its ways.


Thiel noted that California is the first state to pass a law letting student athletes make money from their sports. This breaks with the NCAA prohibition on students profiting while playing. In 2023, athletes at all California universities can make money from the use of their names and images.

"The NCAA has been opposed to this because it's going to disrupt the system of amateurism," Thiel said. "But the Olympics, which used to be a bastion of amateurism, got rid of it 30 years ago. It's an antiquated system that exists nowhere else in the world except in U.S. college sports.

"All other countries in the world when they have talented athletes, they typically get them into academies, where there's a balance of athletics and life skill classes. It suits everybody just fine everywhere else but here."


Thiel noted that a Washington lawmaker introduced a bill this session that would have allowed college athletes to benefit from the marketing of their talents. The legislation didn't go anywhere. At the time, Thiel called it "a conversation starter."

He thinks the California law will eventually prompt other states, including Washington, to pass similar legislation that will pressure the NCAA to change its ways.

"The NCAA will not do anything toward reform unless a gun is put to its head," Thiel said.

"I'm sure the NCAA is going to sue (over this law) and I'm sure they're going to lose because they have no leg to stand on. 

"It is going to inspire them to engage in genuine reform where they can come up with a pool of money to distribute to athletes that at least is a fair wage.

"I don't necessarily think this is the be-all and end-all but it is a great start on finally scaring straight the NCAA in being honest with their athletes and fair with their athletes.

"And it's probably a step in the direction of professionalization, which I think college athletes must go to. Right now in college athletics, everybody is getting paid except the athletes who are putting on the show."

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Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.