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Swain & Tully Bill to Allow College Athletes to Earn Endorsement Compensation Clears Assembly Panel

College athletics bring in profits for higher education institutions, media outlets, sponsors and others, but the players themselves across much of the nation are prohibited from earning a piece of the revenue.

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Lisa Swain and Chris Tully (both D-Bergen, Passaic) seeks to eliminate this disparity by allowing college athletes to earn compensation for use of their name, image or likeness. The bill (A-5863), known as the “New Jersey Fair Play Act,” was approved Thursday by the Assembly Higher Education Committee.

“Athletes are the faces of the industry. They are the ones out there on the field, putting in the work that will attract spectators and create opportunities for businesses to profit,” said Swain. “It’s only fair that they have the right to earn compensation for their work.”

Under the bill, a four-year institution of higher education would be prohibited from upholding any rule, requirement, standard or other limitation that prevents college athletes from earning compensation from their name, image or likeness. Earning such compensation would not affect the student’s scholarship eligibility.

California recently passed similar legislation, and New Jersey is the 16th state to introduce such a measure. Since California approved its legislation, the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced it would adopt a policy allowing college athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness within the two years. However, critics of the plan say it lacks specifics and may be too restrictive on athletes.

“Every day, student athletes generate massive amounts of value for their schools, leagues, the NCAA, and their for-profit partners. But the group that works and sacrifices the most to generate that value – the student athletes themselves- do not see a single penny,” said Tully. “The New Jersey Fair Play Act finally corrects the fundamental imbalances that have existed in collegiate athletics for far too long.”

A student athlete under the bill would not be allowed to earn compensation in connection with certain products, including adult entertainment, alcohol, casinos, gambling, sports betting, the lottery, video and online game betting, tobacco and electronic smoking products, pharmaceuticals, controlled dangerous substances, and weapons such as firearms and ammunition.

Under the measure, a four-year institution would be prohibited from joining the National Collegiate Athletic Association or any athletic association, conference, or other group or organization with control over intercollegiate athletics that:

  • prohibits a student athlete from earning compensation as a result of the use of the student’s name, image, or likeness
  • prohibits an institution of higher education from participating in intercollegiate athletics as a result of the compensation of a student athlete for the use of the student’s name, image, or likeness
  • provides a prospective student-athlete with compensation in relation to the student-athlete’s name, image, or likeness; or
  • prevents a New Jersey student participating in intercollegiate athletics from obtaining professional representation in relation to contracts or legal matters including, but not limited to, representation provided by athlete agents or legal representation provided by attorneys

Additionally, a student athlete who enters a contract to earn compensation would be required to disclose the contract to a college official. An institutional team contract would not prevent a collegiate player from using their name, image or likeness for commercial purposes when they are not engaged in official team activities.

The bill would take effect immediately and first be applicable in the fifth academic year following enactment.