A piece of legislation, which is on its way to a vote by the New Jersey Assembly, would protect the interests of college athletes in the state, with some exemptions.

Bill 5863, currently named the New Jersey Fair Play Act, would make it illegal for New Jersey’s four-year educational institutions to penalize athletes for receiving compensation for the use of:

  • Names
  • Images
  • Likenesses

There are some complexities to the bill; however, like restrictions on partnerships between companies and athletes.

Restrictions in the Assembly’s college athletes pay bill

Any company or individual involved in legal gambling can’t partner with athletes at universities like Rutgers.

The bill reads:

“… A student participating in intercollegiate athletics shall be prohibited from earning compensation … with any person, company, or organization related to … casinos and gambling, including sports betting, the lottery;…”

If this bill becomes law, you won’t see Scarlett Knights football players getting checks from Atlantic City casinos for autograph sessions. Mobile sportsbook operators, like DraftKings Sportsbook, would also be barred from signing college athletes to sponsorship contracts.

Gambling operators aren’t alone here, however. College athletes would face the same restrictions with tobacco products, for example.

It isn’t difficult to discern the intent behind this language. Such deals might create concern about the integrity of college sports.

Those who harbor those concerns lack information, however. Legal sportsbooks’ integrity monitoring provides adequate safeguards.

There is an additional problem with this bill. These restrictions run contrary to their very intent.

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How these restrictions actually maintain the status quo

The ideology behind bills like these is ensuring athletes have the same publicity rights the rest of the population enjoys. That’s the big problem with these restrictions.

New Jersey doesn’t bar its general population from signing endorsement deals with sportsbooks by the state. Likewise, non-athletes enrolled at the state’s four-year colleges can legally accept money for a casino appearance.

The state wouldn’t bat an eye if Greg Schiano, for example, got a check from an off-track betting site in exchange for using his image in an ad. These restrictions continue to treat college athletes as a special class who don’t enjoy full publicity rights.

All is not lost, however. It’s debatable whether or not the bill as written would withstand a court challenge.

There is a strong legal precedent that individual states can’t regulate intercollegiate athletics. Furthermore, this potential law wouldn’t apply until 2024 at the earliest. It could look different by then.

The intersection of college athletes’ publicity rights and legal sports betting in New Jersey is new territory for everyone. New Jersey’s approach to this point has its strengths and weaknesses.

Derek Helling

About

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. In addition to gaming news, he covers esports, sports business and sports law. When he isn’t working, he spends his time collecting basketball cards and helping his wife Audrey serve their two Munchkin cat overlords.