The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Tuesday that it will reverse a long-standing rule and allow student-athletes to be compensated for their names, likenesses, and images.
The organization's Board of Governors unanimously voted for the change to permit players to make money off their sporting achievements while earning a degree.
"This modernization for the future is a natural extension of the numerous steps NCAA members have taken in recent years to improve support for student-athletes, including full cost of attendance and guaranteed scholarships," Michael V. Drake, the board's chair and Ohio State University president, said in a statement.
Set to be implemented by January 2021, the board said its priority with the new rule is to ensure student-athletes will be treated like their non-athlete counterparts in most cases. It also underscored NCAA athletes' role as students rather than university employees.
Student-athletes have long demanded a share of the profits generated by their fame and efforts. Many pointed to the NCAA's outsized revenue as another reason for players to be fairly compensated; in 2017, the organization brought in more than $1 billion in revenue, CNN reported, with none of that money going in the players' pockets.
Famous athletes like LeBron James and lawmakers like Sen. Bernie Sanders have called for the NCAA to allow students to sign endorsement deals.
Lawmakers in several states have been pushing for legislation to circumvent the NCAA rules.
Last month, California became the first state to allow student-athletes to sign endorsement deals, prompting a threat from the NCAA that schools in the state could be banned from championship games.
However, Tuesday's announcement marked a change of heart for the organization that had staunchly opposed any such rule allowing student-athletes to make money off their fame.
“As a national governing body, the NCAA is uniquely positioned to modify its rules to ensure fairness and a level playing field for student-athletes,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. “The board’s action today creates a path to enhance opportunities for student-athletes while ensuring they compete against students and not professionals.”