By Agence France-Presse

NBA superstar LeBron James took aim at the NCAA Wednesday after the powerful governing body of US collegiate sports warned California’s governor against legislation that would allow student-athletes to be paid for the use of their name or likeness.

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LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers (ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN / NBAE / Getty Images / AFP)

The California state legislature passed the bill on Wednesday and sent it to Governor Gavin Newsom.

The NCAA had already urged Newsom not to sign it, calling it “unconstitutional” and “harmful” in a letter signed by NCAA President Mark Emmert and 21 other members of the board of governors.

“If the bill becomes law and California’s 58 NCAA schools are compelled to allow an unrestricted name, image and likeness scheme, it would erase the critical distinction between college and professional athletics and, because it gives those schools an unfair recruiting advantage, would result in them eventually being unable to compete in NCAA competitions,” the letter said.

James, who had already expressed support for the legislation, responded to reports of the letter via Twitter.

“Or because of this bill, you can work with everyone to create a national policy that is fair to athletes,” the Lakers star wrote.

The NCAA’s rules on amateurism bar student-athletes from being paid for their performances and from being compensated for the use of their names, images or likenesses, even though their sports rake in millions at some schools.

The California legislation would not allow schools to pay athletes directly, but it would permit students to receive compensation from other sources, such as a video game company or for signing autographs or memorabilia.

Lawmakers who backed the bill cited other seemingly unfair situations in which student-athletes can run afoul of NCAA rules, including a collegiate swimmer who cannot teach swimming lessons.

“Forget shoe deals and video games, NCAA athletes can’t make a little money over the summer coaching youth sports, can’t promote their social media, can’t model athletic wear, can’t accept groceries or help with rent or equipment,” Assemblyman Kevin Kiley said.

The California legislation would prohibit the NCAA from banning a university from competition if its athletes were compensated beginning January 2023. Supporters say that would give the NCAA time to make changes to its rules.

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© Agence France-Presse

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