New Jersey State Assembly’s Not-So-Flowery Debate on Student-Athlete Pay

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New Jersey is the latest state to advance a student-athlete pay-for-play bill. On November 14, 2019, New Jersey State Assemblywoman Lisa Swain and Assemblyman P. Christopher Tully introduced Assembly Bill 5863, or the New Jersey Fair Play Act.

Previously, we reported a slate of states, including California, passed or introduced student-athlete compensation bills. Like many of those bills, the New Jersey bill will allow student-athletes to earn compensation using their name, image, or likeness. However, some New Jersey State Assembly members voiced their concerns with respect to the bill’s language.

Notably, the New Jersey Fair Play Act allows student-athletes to “[earn] compensation from the use of [their] name, image, or likeness [without affecting their] institutional scholarship eligibility.” In addition, an “institutional scholarship shall not be considered compensation for the purposes of this act and a scholarship shall not be revoked as a result of a student earning compensation.” However, State Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin does not want to see a scenario play out where a student-athlete receives a “full ride to college” along with “compensation that [exceeds] the cost of that scholarship by a considerably degree [resulting in] another young athlete [being] deprived of a scholarship.”

State Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll raises a similar concern because under such a scenario, the student-athlete will “keep that full boat to [a prestigious institution like] Rutgers . . . [because] there’s a lot of people out there who don’t have enough money to attend [prestigious institutions, such as] Rutgers.” Tully responded by pointing out “a lot of colleges and institutions across [America] are making millions and millions of dollars . . . off of [student-athletes] backs.” Carroll continued to voice his concern that the language of the bill does not allow scholarship revocation, “no matter what an athlete earns.”

Following that debate, the State Assembly’s Higher Education Committee advanced the Fair Play Act. The bill is now headed to the floor of the State Assembly for a full vote. More states continue to introduce their version of student-athlete compensation bills, even after the NCAA’s Board of Governors announced their plans to formulate and implement new rules regarding student-athlete compensation for use of their name, image, or likeness.

Sen. Corey Booker announced he is joining a bipartisan working group to explore the issue of student-athlete compensation. The group includes U.S. Sens. Mitt Romney, Chris Murphy, Marco Rubio, and David Purdue. Rubio expressed concern about the “chaos and endless litigation” that is likely to result if we have “50 different state laws for compensating student-athletes on their name, image, [or] likeness.” The concern is noted among the NCAA and elected officials throughout the country. However, the debate in the New Jersey State Assembly shows the importance of crafting language in a bill that may become law.

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