News and culture through the lens of Southern California.
Hosted by A Martínez
Airs Weekdays 2 to 3 p.m.

Meet the California Assemblywoman who wants to better protect college athletes




Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Listen to story

02:44
Download this story 3MB

The month of March is ALL about NCAA college basketball for many sports fans. And now we know who's going to Final Four: Gonzaga, Oregon, South Carolina and... after a last second shot, the North Carolina Tarheels.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwHp3w9uozU

But with athletic play comes injuries. Concussions are getting the most attention from media observers, but that's far from the only thing that can harm an athlete during their college career.

"There's problems with CTE [chronic traumatic encephapolopathy]," said California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher. "There's problems with chronic injury. We had a death at UC Berkley dealing with an athlete that had sickle cell."

Fletcher is a HUGE sports fan - a former cheerleader at Stanford, in fact. Being a fan helped her realize the difficulties that college athletes go through and the need to help them.

"I think the only way we save the future of these sports is by having them really ensure that our play is regulated. "

To that end, Fletcher has announced a new legislative proposal: The Athlete Protection Commission Bill. The commission, Fletcher says, will be made up of nine individuals with wide-ranging sports expertise.

"We want former college athletes," she said. "Somebody who's familiar with sports economics,  governance folks; somebody who knows about athlete's abuse; people with specific qualifications that understand college athletics as well as some of the effects of play or of unsafe play on athletes."

If Fletcher has her way, they won't just show up when an athlete has a debilitating injury.

"It will also allow whistle-blower powers because right now the athletes themselves don't have anywhere to go, inform anyone when they're in a dangerous situation or they're put in or if they're told that they have to continue to do something and risk losing their scholarship. "

But what about the NCAA itself? It's the regulator of college athletics.  Shouldn't it be making sure these sorts of things are… well, regulated?

"We haven't seen any true commitment for the NCAA to hold colleges accountable for player safety," Fletcher said. "That's why we're picking up the slack.

"We think there needs to be an independent commission that really serves as a watchdog over this and ensures that there’s some sort of best practices that are developed. Some of that may come from some of the work that the NCAA is starting to do; they may have some ideas about the best practices and policies for these athletes. But where they're not willing to act, we need to have something that will."

Fletcher's proposed Athlete Protection Commission is in committee. She hopes it will come to a vote in the next few weeks.