SACRAMENTO — Defying the NCAA, California opened the way Monday for college athletes to hire agents and make money from endorsement deals with sneaker companies, soft drink makers, car dealerships, and other sponsors, just like the pros.
The first-in-the-nation law, signed by Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom and set to take effect in 2023, could upend amateur sports in the US and trigger a legal challenge.
Newsom and others cast it as an attempt to bring more fairness to big-money college athletics and let players share in the wealth they create for their schools. Critics have long complained that universities are getting rich off the backs of athletes — often, black athletes struggling to get by financially.
‘‘Other college students with a talent, whether it be literature, music, or technological innovation, can monetize their skill and hard work,’’ the governor said. ‘‘Student athletes, however, are prohibited from being compensated while their respective colleges and universities make millions, often at great risk to athletes’ health, academics and professional careers.’’
Newsom predicted other states will introduce similar legislation.
The NCAA — which had called on him to veto the bill, arguing that it would destroy the distinction between amateurs and pros and give California an unfair recruiting advantage — said it is considering its next steps. It did not elaborate.
In a statement, the NCAA said it is working to revise its rules on making money off a player’s name and likeness. But it said any changes should be made at the national level through the NCAA, not through a patchwork of state laws.