N.J. Senate approves legislation allowing college athletes to earn money from endorsements

Rutgers University football

Rutgers teammates celebrate with kicker Justin Davidovicz (95) after a field goal during the Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. Penn State Nittany Lions November 30, 2019 at Beaver Stadium in University Park, PA. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

Some New Jersey lawmakers want college athletes to be able to earn money from their success in sports.

The Fair Play Act, passed by the state Senate on Monday, would allow players to strike endorsement deals using their name, image, or likeness.

“They can absolutely not accept pay. This is only about endorsements. They cannot be paid by the college or any other entity for their service as an athlete,” said Sen. Joe Lagana, D-Bergen, one of the sponsors.

California enacted a similar law in September, and other states are also considering legislation that would do away with the NCAA’s restriction on student athlete pay.

Critics have said the NCAA and federal lawmakers should reach a national solution instead of a patchwork of state laws, and also argue that the bill would only help star athletes with widespread acclaim.

“Take football. That’s a team game,” said Sen. Samuel Thompson, D-Middlesex. “You have some people that become outstanding stars — running backs, quarterbacks, et cetera. But they can’t be outstanding stars unless they have seven linemen in front of them opening holes and et cetera. And I think there could be some resentment.”

Even if the bill does become law, it would be a long time before any students see green.

The bill is slated to take effect five years after enactment so that, according to the sponsors, the NCAA would have ample time to come up with a fix to student-athlete pay that would apply nationwide.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal