LeBron James, Bernie Sanders Tweet Support of Bill to Allow Paying NCAA Athletes

LeBron James, Lakers

Getty LeBron James, Lakers

A bill heading to the California Assembly that would have a major impact on NCAA sports got a pair of big endorsements in the past 24 hours from LeBron James and Bernie Sanders.

SB-206, known as the Fair Pay to Play Act, would make college athletes at private and public universities in California eligible to be compensated for use of their likeness, image or name without affecting the athlete’s scholarship status.

On Thursday it got a boost from California resident and Lakers star James, in a Tweet that read, “This law is a GAME CHANGER.” The full Tweet:

On Friday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D- Vermont), one of the leading candidates for the 2020 Democratic nomination for President, tweeted his support of James’ statement. Sanders, notably, has been running a close second to former Vice President Joe Biden in California primary polls.

And another Democratic contender, former businessman Andrew Yang, has made paying college athletes part of his campaign. On his website, Yang wrote, “We should create a new type of college athlete—“Performer athlete”—who is entitled to market-based compensation. This would not affect the status of any other student-athletes nor the tax-exempt status of the university.”

James, of course, did not attend college before entering the NBA Draft out of St. Vincent-St. Mary in 2003 and becoming the No. 1 pick, chosen by the Cavaliers. Before James was even drafted, he signed endorsement deals worth more than $100 million, including $90 million for his shoe contract with Nike.

James has long been a proponent of compensating student-athletes. Another NBA player, 10-year league veteran Etan Thomas, who played at Syracuse for four years, added his support of James on Twitter, saying, “Much Respect to you for pushing this bill.”

The bill already passed the California State Senate easily in May. It would apply to schools that generate more than $10 million annually in media rights revenues and would be slated to become law in 2023.

State Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) introduced the bill to address the issue of college athletes living at near-poverty levels while the schools for which they perform reap millions off their work. The bill would not allow for college athletes to be paid directly by schools but would only allow them to accept endorsement deals and sign with an agent without losing their NCAA eligibility.

Passage of the bill would set up a massive legal showdown with the NCAA, which has threatened to bad California schools from postseason play should the bill pass.

James is said to have gotten involved with the issue because, according to Politico, forces lobbying against the bill have been working to persuade Gov. Gavin Newsom not to sign the bill should it pass the Legislature.

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