Joe Namath on California's NCAA law: 'To me it’s getting greedy'

Among the detractors of California's law that would allow student-athletes to earn from their endorsements and likeness is football legend Joe Namath.

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“I don’t know if that’s the right way to go, right now, I’m negative to that move that they’re making,” Namath told “Now California, I am all for what the governor is trying to do clean things up out there with the climate and fuel emissions — I do think that’s a state issue. What he’s doing about treating young men — teenagers who will mature in a few years — to make them stand out more in a financial fashion than their peers – the parents who can get involved and the hangers-on who can get involved. I know there are some guys who agree with that. To me, it’s getting greedy.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law this week a provision that will allow college athletes to financially benefit from their likeness, including the ability to sign endorsement deals. The law directly contradicts the NCAA’s policy on student-athletes getting paid. While it doesn’t mandate that colleges pay their athletes, the legislation does allow for other ways for scholarship athletes to turn their brand into money. These avenues have been closed to NCAA athletes.

The NCAA doesn’t allow athletes to receive compensation outside their scholarships. Namath, considered one of the greatest college quarterbacks of all-time, led Alabama to a national title in 1964 and didn’t benefit from his likeness until he was drafted by the New York Jets.

He's now a trendsetter in sports marketing who had some of the biggest endorsement deals of his generation. His autobiography, "All the Way: My Life in Four Quarters" was released earlier this year. Namath, who was just nomianted for a Grammy in the Spoken Word category for his reading of the book, thinks the law is a slippery slope.

Education, Namath said, should be the purpose of college athletics and not a profit.

California’s law, which doesn’t go in effect until 2023, has drawn criticism as it would upend decades of the NCAA’s traditions and regulations and could be an unfair advantage for California. Other states could potentially follow suit and also legislate opportunities for student-athletes to monetize their brand.

One area of concern for Namath from the recent legislation in California goes beyond just the ethical and moral issues at play on both sides of the debate. A locker room can be a delicate place and Namath is concerned about introducing money into the equation, especially at such a young age.

Only a handful of star players will likely benefit from the law as they will be the ones most marketable for sponsorships. The rest of the athletes would be on the outside looking in.

“It will be very difficult to keep the right values among the athletes in the locker room,” Namath said.