LeBron James hails new California NCAA law: "I feel for those kids"

LeBron James hails new NCAA law

A controversial new law signed by California's governor Monday is a game changer for college athletes. It would let them earn big paychecks for endorsement deals, just like professional athletes. California could be just the first state to do this and that has the NCAA fighting back.  

But Governor Gavin Newsom has support from NBA star LeBron James, who invited Newsom on his HBO show, "The Shop," to sign the historic bill.

"I understand what those kids are going through. I feel for those kids," James said.

James skipped college to go straight to the NBA. Outside Lakers' practice Monday, he said it just didn't make sense, growing up in an underprivileged household.

"Me and my mom, we didn't have had anything. We wouldn't have been able to benefit at all from it. And the university would have been able to capitalize on everything," James said.

The NCAA is a billion dollar industry. The bulk comes from television rights and championship ticket sales. Hundreds of millions are allocated to schools and top-tier coaches make about $2.5 million a year. The student athletes don't get paid.

"Playing a sport and wanting to be compensated for it doesn't make you a bad person," said Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung. He played for Oklahoma State.

In a statement, the NCAA said that states creating their own rules "will make unattainable the goal of providing a fair and level playing field" for nearly half a million student athletes nationwide.

California State University, Long Beach athletic director Andy Fee worries the law would redefine college sports.

"Do we create a new world that essentially blows up amateurism as we know it?" he said.

The Fair Pay to Play Act won't take effect until January 1, 2023. The hope is other states will use the time to look at enacting their own laws. That seems to be happening with Washington, Colorado, New York and South Carolina, saying they're in the exploration phase.