March 15, 2017 (SACRAMENTO) California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego), today announced the introduction of her Athlete Protection Act, which creates the nation’s first Athlete Protection Commission to oversee health and safety regulations for collegiate athletes. The Assemblywoman was joined by Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA football player and current Executive Director of the National College Players Association, and Marshall & Janie Ross, parents of late USC/NFL player Scott Ross, who died as a result of brain trauma he received during his athletic career.
“The NCAA has forfeited its responsibility to keep players safe, and too many colleges and universities have forfeited our trust when it comes to player safety. I have introduced the Athlete Protection Act to do the job that the NCAA and campus administrators have utterly failed to do of keeping players safe,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher said. “No parents should ever lose a child because a school valued winning a game more than they valued the health of a player.”
AB 1435, the Athlete Protection Act, establishes the Athlete Protection Commission in state law. Once operational, the commission will be responsible for a number of directives, including ensuring that every campus maintains accurate medical records for college athletes, making those records available to athletes, ensuring athletes have enough time to complete their academic work and earn their degree and require that campus sports programs operate with transparency and respect for the rights of college athletes. The Athlete Protection Commission will have a number of tools to enforce its directives, including subpoena power.
“College athletes need a watchdog looking out for them, plain and simple. Athletes are suffering and dying because schools are prioritizing money over the lives of their players,” said Ramogi Huma, Executive Director of the National College Players Association. “Athletes get treated like disposable cash machines by some universities, and it’s costing people their lives.”
Recent years have seen a surge in awareness linking traumatic brain injuries to college and professional sports. According to the Mayo Clinic, the damage that can be caused by repeated concussions can lead to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a condition marked my mental deterioration, memory loss, emotional instability and suicidal thoughts and behavior.
A number of high profile tragedies have underscored the epidemic of brain injury in professional and college sports. In 2013, NFL linebacker Junior Seau committed suicide. An autopsy linked his suicide to brain injuries received during his professional career. A year later, the death of his teammate, Scott Ross, was similarly linked to brain damage sustained during his career. Mr. Ross’s father, Marshall, has since been an outspoken advocate for more protections for athletes.
“As a parent, my wife and I can only wonder how Scott’s life would have turned out if there had been guidelines, an independent watchdog, being a guardian angel, for him and looking over his shoulder,” said Marshall Ross, father of the late Scott Ross. “Just maybe we would be having dinner with him and his family tonight. California has the opportunity to protect our children. Please pass AB1435.”