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Student Athlete Endorsement Act secures payment for endorsements

The state legislature cleared the way earlier this month for student athletes in New Mexico to earn money from their name, image or likeness.

The New Mexico Senate unanimously passed SB 94, also known as the Student Athlete Endorsement Act, on Feb. 19. The bill passed in the House March 14 and was signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on April 7.

The Student Endorsement Act will allow student athletes to receive payment for sponsorships and endorsements. (Illustration by Claudia Silva)

SB 94 is aimed at student athletes across the state who wish to profit via endorsements and sponsorships. The NCAA has taken steps recently to allow student athletes to be compensated. The new bill clears remaining legal hurdles for students at the state level.

The bipartisan legislation, which was first introduced on Jan. 19, 2021, prohibits universities from preventing student athletes from accepting sponsorships or earning money from endorsements. The introduction to the bill reads as follows:

“An act relating to athletics; enacting the student athlete endorsement act; prohibiting imposition of limitations against student athletes and certain other individuals earning compensation from the use of their name, image or likeness; allowing for the professional representation of a student athlete by an agent for matters arising from the use of the student athletes name, image of likeness.”

The bill’s sponsors are Rep. Moe Maestas (D-Albuquerque), Sen. Bill O’Neill (D-Albuquerque), and Sen. Mark Moores (R-Albuquerque). Moores is a former Lobo who played football during his time at the University of New Mexico.

In an interview with the Santa Fe New Mexican, Moores explained that allowing student athletes to be compensated is about fairness. “With the billions of dollars being spent in athletics and allowing student athletes to benefit from their name and image, this is only fair,” he said.

Alison Gastelum, a student athlete on the New Mexico State University women’s golf team, said that even though she hadn’t heard of SB 94, she is excited about the idea of making money as a student athlete.

“It’s good because we as student athletes really dedicate most of our time to our sport and the university,” Gastelum said.

Gastelum explained that she and other student athletes often struggle to find a job to help them earn extra money. She mentioned occasions when employers rejected student athletes despite having good resumes, saying that they need people who can cover more hours.

Gastelum also mentioned that under the old rules, student athletes such as herself could lose their scholarships if they accepted financial assistance from external sponsors. She said her scholarship helps with living expenses, but it isn’t enough to cover everything she needs.

“In my opinion, [the new law] seems very interesting, and I wish this reaches the NCAA to promote these actions so student athletes can start receiving a little more support,” Gastelum said.

Robert Downs, a wide receiver on the Aggie football team, expressed his support for the new bill. He said that universities as well as the NCAA have been making large amounts of money off students’ names, images and likenesses.

“It’s only right for these athletes to be able to market and monetize themselves as the NCAA has always been doing,” Downs said.

Downs said that opportunities to earn money through endorsement deals can help young athletes to learn about the sports industry before going professional.

“It gives athletes a taste of professionalism before they hit the pros to gain some experience on money management, security, and a multitude of other qualities,” Downs said.

Mario Moccia, director of NMSU athletics, mentioned that finally passing SB 94 could draw more student athletes to New Mexico. According to Moccia, the prospect of making money while attending NMSU could impact the decisions of future students.

According to the final version of the bill, the Student Athlete Endorsement Act will go into effect on July 1, 2021.

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