Gov. Gavin Newsom defends NCAA bill: 'These athletes are abused'

In an interview mixed with a fair amount of bravado, Gov. Gavin Newsom, of California, defended his state’s decision to upend the status quo of the NCAA by signing a law on Monday that allows student-athletes to financially benefit from their likeness.

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Until now, scholarship athletes have been unable to financially profit from their name and likeness. In the past, even getting tattoos or selling gear has led to infractions from the NCAA. The law makes complications for the NCAA and other states to sort out. 

“It is rather remarkable what is happening in college sports.”

- Gov. Gavin Newsom, of California

Newsom, a former college baseball player who received a partial scholarship to attend Santa Clara University, defended the legislation, which has created a firestorm of conversation, he signed on Monday. He spoke to The Athletic’s “THE LEAD” podcast about the controversial law.

“It’s a rather perverse system of — I would argue — exploitation,” Newsom told “THE LEAD. “And I think its time is coming to an end, and that’s the purpose of our efforts in California, is to call the question.”

Newsom said that getting a college scholarship to play baseball “is the reason I’m governor of California,” opening the door of higher education to someone with dyslexia. He lamented the lifestyle of a student-athlete and what he perceives as the difficulties they go through.

“A kid can get suspended today for selling an autograph, a kid can get suspended for selling a jersey," Newsom said. A kid can get suspended for getting paid to help a next-door neighbor to learn to swim if that college athlete is a swimmer and is getting paid to coach or mentor someone in swimming — they can lose their scholarship."

Newsom meandered a bit in this interview with The Athletic. He has issues with athletes not being able to get paid for their service, but also raised concerns about the very system itself, something that seems out of his purview to legislate.

At one point in his interview, the California governor said, “These athletes are abused in terms of the time they’re expected to spend on the sports, and the coaches are making a fortune.”

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The idea of the so-called "student-athlete" is a challenging notion for the governor because he does not think colleges and universities are putting energy into the academics of their athletes.

“And frankly I think we’re taking advantage – particularly in Division I sports, football and basketball, in particular but not exclusively — that we’re taking advantage of these kids with the promise that we’re doing something for them when in fact they’re doing an enormous amount for the institutions and everybody else," Newsom said.