Coach K backs California’s Fair Pay to Play law

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is the latest big name to offer support for the California “Fair Pay to Play” law that will allow college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness.

Krzyzewski provided a prepared statement at the ACC’s 2019 Operation Basketball preseason event on Tuesday, saying he supported the law and encouraged the NCAA to adopt a uniform rule.

“I don’t — and won’t — pretend to understand all the complexities of such a change,” Krzyzewski said in the statement. “However, it is a sign of the times that we in college athletics must continually adapt, albeit in a sensible manner.

“While we have made significant progress in recent years, we have not always responded to the needs and rights of our players swiftly, and frankly, we’re playing catch-up after years of stagnant rules. I hope and trust that not only will there be a plan to put the student-athletes’ best interests at the forefront, but that we’ll also have a firm plan for implementation at the national level.”

While Krzyzewski’s comments on the specific bill in California is new, his support for improvements in player compensation echoes statements he’s made in past years, including throughout last season’s high profile campaign with Zion Williamson.

Several other ACC coaches offered similar commentary Tuesday, including Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, the president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, and Louisville’s Chris Mack, who said he’s changed his perspective on the issue in recent years.

“Four or five years ago I might’ve sung a different tune,” Mack said, “but a lot has changed. The money, the TV contracts, every conference has its own network now. I don’t know what it looks like. I’m not an economist. And I think the NCAA has gotten a bad rap for not doing anything for student-athletes. But I am on the side that thinks student-athletes should be able to capitalize on their name, image and likeness.”

California’s law won’t take effect until 2023; however, several other states are pursuing legislation on a more advanced timeline. That, Mack said, is more concerning than the overall rules.

“I just hope that whatever happens isn’t ramrodded down the NCAA’s throat,” he said. “I hope politicians don’t drive it so hard and fast that there are unintended consequences without a lot of thought going into it.”

Brey said that, while the overall proposal is likely a step in the right direction, he believes the overall value of name, image and likeness rights for most athletes will not be significant.

“I think it’s much ado about nothing right now,” Brey said. “What’s really the marketability of some of these guys? How many jerseys are they really going to sell? It’s a great panic thing right now. I just think we can work this out and the market’s not going to be as deep for everybody as we think.”

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