This state senator once caused McDonald’s to change. No wonder she took on the NCAA.

July 1, 2021

The latest sparkplug in American sports history has a CV of pioneering legislation so rangy that it includes both renovating college athletics and banning Styrofoam. She long since co-founded an international organization for sustainability, toiled in the anti-apartheid movement for South Africa from way over in Berkeley, met Nelson Mandela and alighted in Johannesburg during Mandela’s election. She’s that rare figure in the timeline of sports who has to get up mid-interview and mosey across the street to the statehouse for 10 minutes to vote on decriminalizing jaywalking.

Jaywalking is an art form in Berkeley, so she gets a kick out of that.

Of all the Americans to take the dusty, decrepit amateurism of college athletics and give it a mighty shake, how unlikely is 66-year-old California state Sen. Nancy Skinner (D)? She’s really unlikely and really not. Somehow, she’s the soul who penned the bill in 2019 that became the law in 2019 that swept the land state by state by state by 2021, superseding the NCAA and enabling college athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses (NIL).

But wait, of course she’s the one.

Who else can describe the parallel of NIL and Styrofoam?

“You know, I’m basically a social-justice advocate who became a legislator,” she said Tuesday in an interview across from the state capitol as the total of states enacting similar laws ballooned toward 20 and counting. “And so when it comes to exploitation, whether it’s exploitation of athletes or whoever it is, you know, it’s in my DNA to basically try to right that.”


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