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NCAA gives in, California and athletes win likeness battle

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA Board of Governors has taken the first step toward allowing athletes to cash in on their fame. The board voted unanimously on Tuesday to clear the way for the amateur athletes to “benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness.”

The vote came during a meeting at Emory University in Atlanta.

Just a few weeks ago, when California pushed forward with its bill to allow college athletes to collect money from endorsement deals, NCAA threatened to bar the state’s colleges from its competition. It now appears the NCAA was bluffing.

In a news release, board chair Michael V. Drake said the board realized that it “must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes.”

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Big East Conference Commissioner Val Ackerman are leading the working group. It is an important early step in a process that could take months or even years to work its way through the NCAA various layers.

NCAA rules have long barred players from hiring agents and the association has steadfastly refused to allow players to be paid by their schools, with some exceptions. The newly signed California law is set to take effect in 2023 and would prevent athletes from losing their scholarships or being kicked off their teams for signing endorsement deals. Other states could put laws in place earlier than that.

The NCAA says it represents some 450,000 athletes nationwide.


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