CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill similar to California’s Fair Pay to Play Act, creating an avenue for college athletes to get paid for their image and likeness, is planning to be introduced in the West Virginia Legislature next session.

Delegate Shawn Fluharty (D-Ohio) said on a recent episode of 580-Live with Danny Jones on MetroNews affiliate 580-WCHS in Charleston that he plans to introduce it.

Shawn Fluharty

Fluharty believes the state must get a law passed as other states across the country are planning to do the same, which he said could leave the universities in West Virginia on an uneven playing field.

“We have a broken system now,” Fluharty said. “Finally people are standing up to the NCAA. The NCAA has a great formula, right? You make over $1 billion annually and don’t have to any the employees. That’s fantastic.”

The bill in California allows college athletes in the state to be paid for endorsements and to hire an agent, beginning in 2023. The NCAA responded to the law signed into effect by California Governor Gavin Newsome last week, threatening to ban or fine universities in California that follow the law.

“What this legislation allows and I think there is confusion in the sense that people think colleges and universities are going to be stroking checks as salaries to players. That’s not true,” Fluharty said.

“All it’s saying is they are allowed to be compensated for their likeness or image, which right now they are not. You could be Pat White, you could be responsible for selling a million jerseys which you currently do not get one dollar for. What this legislation would say is you’re not allowed to make money off of other people who are putting in all the work and not getting paid for it.”

Fluharty harped on the example of White, Steve Slaton and Owen Schmitt on the popular 2007 WVU football team making zero dollars for all the jerseys bought, tickets sold and money brought into the university.

According to a study released by WVU athletic director Shane Lyons in the summer, the athletic program is responsible for an annual economic impact of more than $300 million to the state and nearly $79 million to Monongalia County.

A recent New York Times report indicated that the NCAA generated over $14 billion last year.

Fluharty said he hopes for backing from Republican leadership in the legislature for the bill, claiming it’s a Republican issue.

“It’s a free market principled idea,” he said. “One, a laborer is worthy of his wages and two, in a free market if you’re the most popular guy and everybody is wearing your jersey, you should get something in return for it.”

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