Katelyn Ohashi, the UCLA gymnast who rocked our world with her impeccable floor routine earlier this year, came out in support of California’s Fair Pay to Play Act, a bill signed into law last month by Governor Gavin Newsom. The bill won’t go into effect until the beginning of 2023, after which scholarship athletes competing in the NCAA will be allowed to profit off their name and likeness through outside endorsements and sponsorships.
The subject of a video op-ed for the New York Times this week, Ohashi recalled how her routine had made her one of the most celebrated college gymnasts in recent history. “Along with this came a lot of attention and opportunities but I couldn’t capitalize on them,” she said. The production stitched together a montage of her media appearances following her perfect performance, all of which she would have done without compensation per the NCAA regulations. “I was handcuffed by the NCAA rules that prevented me from deriving any benefit from my own name and likeness, regardless of the fact that after my final meet, I had no pro league to join.” The NCAA, meanwhile, pulls in crazy profits because of the success of college athletes; last year, they reported a revenue of over $1 billion.
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i am extremely grateful for my incomparable experience at UCLA, to have competed for four years and graduated – but i, along with so many other women and Olympic sport athletes don’t have a pro league to go to. addressing the thought that SB206 is the death of Title IX and will ruin “competitive balance”, SB206 is about high profile athletes getting fair value, but it also ensures that a student athlete like me – an athlete representing a currently non-revenue generating sport can capitalize on my talent the same way any other student can who DJ’s on the weekend or builds an app. my routine going viral proves that people do care, it’s just time for the NCAA to stop exploiting athletes like me. this bill empowers us to elevate our sports into revenue generators and earn what we deserve! thanks #theshop for having me! #morethananathlete #wearethecollective
Ohashi clarified that college athletes are not asking to be paid by the schools for their athletic performance, but are simply looking to profit off of their accomplishments without having to forgo their athletic scholarships; she noted that non-athletes are allowed to get paid for their work and success; writers enrolled in college, for example, are not forbidden to profit off their writing the way that gymnasts are forbidden to profit off a perfect floor routine. “[The Fair Pay to Play Act] is about empowering student-athletes to rightfully earn off their individual name and likeness without sacrificing the opportunity to get an education,” she said.
Supporters of the bill insist that it will allow female athletes — many of whom do not have access to pro leagues — to profit, even briefly, off their work. State Sen. Nancy Skinner, a co-sponsor of the bill, highlighted this intention in a statement. “College is the primary time when the spotlight is on. For women, this might be the only time they could make any money.”
The NCAA has expressed their concerns that this state-sponsored bill will create an unequal playing field at the national level, and that allowing notable athletes to get paid for their name and likeness may end up exacerbating inequality in sports between the sexes. “As more states consider their own specific legislation related to this topic, it is clear that a patchwork of different laws from different states will make unattainable the goal of providing a fair and level playing field for 1,100 campuses and nearly half a million student-athletes nationwide,” they warned in a statement. The NCAA will have about three years to figure out how to safeguard against what they feel are impending crises within their system.