On May 17, 2023, the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) sent a letter to California Assemblymember, Chris Holden, urging him to reexamine AB 252. WSF has grave concerns about the potential consequences of the bill, both intended and unintended, as it relates to gender equity and broad-based sports offerings in this country.
Through our vast research, we know that women’s sports participation at colleges and universities still lags behind men, and many schools and institutions are out of compliance with the law. As we work to ensure Title IX’s full promise is a reality for all girls and women, it is our worry that AB 252 will further exacerbate gender inequities.
As it is currently structured, the bill places unnecessary hurdles for schools to comply with both AB 252 and Title IX. Additionally, we know when budgets are tight, schools and universities will cut sports programming; and since women’s sports and men’s Olympic sports are often first on the chopping block, AB 252 puts these programs in a vulnerable position.
Although presented as a “degree completion fund,” this legislation seeks to share revenue between schools and student-athletes. The long-time investment and prioritization of men’s sports programs as well as Title IX non-compliance, have created an environment where student-athletes with “market value,” as defined by the bill, are likely to be men. Thus, if AB 252 becomes law, a best-case scenario of schools providing these payments equitably would likely result in an untenable financial situation which could lead to schools dramatically cutting their sports offerings or eliminating athletics altogether.
Though there are many points of view on the future of college sports, we can all agree that change and evolution is needed. However, a disjointed state by state solution, including AB 252, is not the answer.
We at WSF know that college sports are in need of reform, and we believe that change must be created on a broad Federal level while keeping gender equity and existing federal laws top of mind.