Danny Granger doesn’t have to worry about whether he can afford to supersize that combo meal anymore.
But that wasn’t always the case.
The former University of New Mexico hoops legend who went onto NBA stardom, predominantly with the Indiana Pacers, can recall that two-year window from 2003 to 2005 in Albuquerque when the food choices were often more about what you could afford and not about about what was best for athletic achievement.
“We’d play in front of 18,000 people and we couldn’t get any help from anyone,” Granger told the Journal. “I just don’t think it’s fair. … I could barely afford to eat at McDonald’s and I was on a billboard in the city. I’m like, this is crazy.”
Granger first shared that story with the Journal during a 2018 podcast interview about the sense of frustration knowing his star power — more specifically, just a picture of him — was being leveraged on billboards in a city he loved being in playing for a university he loved playing for. But he couldn’t actually get the same piece of the financial pie others were getting.
On Thursday, he was happy to hear that New Mexico has become the seventh state in the country to pass into law a bill that will allow college athletes to earn compensation from product endorsements or other use of their own name, image or likeness (NIL) without fear of losing their scholarships or eligibility with the university. Several other states have introduced similar legislation.
“It’s about time … 20 years later,” Granger wrote in a text message to the Journal.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday signed into law Senate Bill 94 — a bipartisan bill dubbed the Student Athlete Endorsement Act that was co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque and former UNM Lobo football player, Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, and Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque.
The law takes effect July 1. While there are several other bills in various stages of the process around the country, some with potentially earlier effective dates, as of Lujan Grisham’s signing of the bill on Wednesday, the July 1 start date would make New Mexico and Florida the first two states in the country to have any such legislation begin.
The National College Players Association on Thursday took to social media to thank Moores specifically for authoring the bill.
The matter is something the NCAA appeared headed to do on a more uniform, across the board basis in January until a Department of Justice letter warned of potential complications such a rule might have in relation to the associations’ anti-trust status.
While the NCAA vows such a rule is coming, it is also a notoriously slow-moving organization for movement on such matters that shift any potential earning potential to the college athletes who participate in the sports it governs. Thus states, again on a largely bipartisan basis, are taking matters into their own hands.
“The NCAA model is not working for the athletes who drive the product,” said Nora Meyers Sackett, Press Secretary for Lujan Grisham. “A national standard would be preferable to state-by-state decision-making on this issue, but until that time, New Mexico will join the states who are pushing forward for the changes so many student athletes have advocated for.”
Both UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez and NMSU AD Mario Moccia on Thursday said they both are supportive of NIL legislation and happy there is movement on the topic. But both also expressed concern about a state-level law that would put their athletes, and teams, in potential conflict with eligibility at the NCAA or conference level.
In the build-up to the passage of Moores’ bill this past legislative session, even the New Mexico Higher Education Department cautioned that a state law that allows athletes to do things the athletes in other states the compete against aren’t allowed to do might risk the eligibility of that athlete or the team.
“The governor did consider well the concerns raised by the Higher Education Department,” Meyers Sackett said, “but ultimately did not find them persuasive.”
Asked how it will govern an 11-university membership (12 in football) spread over various western states that now have different laws on the matter, the Mountain West Conference punted on offering any specific answers for now.
“The Mountain West continues to monitor the NIL landscape and will assist the member institutions as they prepare for changes in laws and/or NCAA rules, whatever those changes may be,” said Carolayne Henry, the league’s Senior Associate Commissioner for Governance and Legal Affairs.
The New Mexico law states, among other things, that no state university can take away a scholarship or punish in any way a college athlete for “receiving food, shelter, medical expenses or insurance from a third party or for earning compensation from the use of the athlete’s name, image, likeness or athletic reputation.”
Athletes can not endorse any product while playing their sport (i.e. during games) or use official team gear for endorsements they set up on their own.
The athletes are allowed legal representation for potential endorsement deals, but that doesn’t mean they can hire agents who may represent them for playing professionally.
Among the loose ends still to be sorted are matters like the law stating an athlete can wear whatever footwear they choose when UNM (NIKE) and NMSU (Under Armour) already have existing apparel contracts that would otherwise prohibit such wearing of other shoes without medical exemptions.