LeBron James Backs California Student-Athlete Pay Bill

David Singleton of the UCLA Bruins drives toward the hoop around Justice Sueing of the Cal Golden Bears at Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 5, 2019, in Los Angeles.  (Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)

LeBron James is throwing his support behind a controversial state bill that would allow student-athletes at all four-year colleges in California to sign endorsement deals and receive compensation for the use of their names, images or likenesses.

In a series of tweets Thursday, the Lakers megastar urged California residents to back the measure, which heads to the state Assembly for a floor vote and, if approved, could upend the multibillion-dollar collegiate sports industry.

The legislation, authored by East Bay state Sen. Nancy Skinner, directly contradicts the NCAA's policies on amateurism in college sports, which preclude compensation for student-athletes, and has faced strong opposition from the group.

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In a letter to state lawmakers in June, NCAA President Mark Emmert said the bill could make it "impossible to host fair national championships," and implied that if the bill became law, athletes at California schools could be barred from competing in NCAA national championships.

James has been a longtime critic of NCAA policies. Last month, he grilled the organization over a new set of requirements for agents looking to represent men's college basketball players who are considering entry into the NBA draft. He was also recently the executive producer of an HBO documentary about student-athletes and the college sports industry.

Although SB 206 would not apply to California's community colleges, it would require the chancellor of the state community college network to convene a special working group and submit a report with policy recommendations on student-athlete compensation.

The measure was also amended recently to include language that specifies a hierarchy of endorsement deals. If an athlete's team had an endorsement from one company, for example, that athlete would be barred from signing a deal that conflicts with the school's agreement. Universities, however, would not be allowed to prevent athletes from signing endorsement deals when they're not engaged in "official team activities" off the field or court.

The legislation easily passed the state Senate earlier this month and was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee last week. The full Assembly is expected to vote on the measure on Monday. If passed and signed by the governor, the law would not go into effect until 2023.

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