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House passes bill to allow compensation for NM college athletes

In this file photo, Lobo Zane Martin, right, pulls away from the Air Force’s A.J. Walker, as he dives trying to steal the ball in January 2020. A bill that would allow student athletes to be compensated for endorsements and similar work passed the Legislature. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A measure heading to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk would allow student athletes at New Mexico colleges and universities to earn compensation from product endorsements and similar work.

The bipartisan legislation, Senate Bill 94, passed the House 43-21 Sunday, the final approval necessary to send it to the governor. It cleared the Senate 39-0 last month.

Democratic Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas of Albuquerque said the measure is part of a nationwide effort to treat student athletes more fairly. Pressure is building, he said, on the National Collegiate Athletic Association to loosen rules restricting college athletes’ financial opportunities.

“These students have freedoms that have been denied by the NCAA for decades,” Maestas said.

The proposal would prohibit colleges and universities from penalizing a student athlete for receiving food, shelter, medical expenses or insurance from a third party.

The student would be permitted to earn compensation resulting from the use of their name, image, likeness or athletic reputation. A student, for example, could appear in a local car dealer’s advertisement or make money giving lessons.

Opponents questioned whether it was wise to set up a potential conflict with NCAA rules now rather than wait for national action. Some raised questions about whether it would lead to athlete exploitation or worsen inequalities among schools or athletes.

Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, said a more comprehensive solution is needed.

“I don’t think your bill fixes a broken system,” he said. “I think it makes it worse.”

Supporters said it is natural to let student athletes make money like any other student with marketable skills.

“I believe in this bill,” said Rep. Gail Armstrong, R-Magdalena. “I don’t think there’s a thing wrong with it.”

Under the proposal, New Mexico colleges couldn’t arrange outside compensation as a recruiting inducement for athletes.

Maestas said California and Colorado have enacted similar legislation.

Senate Bill 94 is jointly sponsored by Maestas and Sens. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, and Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque.

Moores and O’Neill played football in college.

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