New Mexico lawmaker to propose student-athlete bill similar to California’s

Mark Moores

State Sen. Mark Moores is planning to propose legislation that would allow student-athletes in New Mexico to hire agents and earn money from endorsements.

The bill would be modeled after legislation California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law earlier this week challenging NCAA rules prohibiting college athletes from promoting companies and products.

Moores, who was an offensive lineman for the University of New Mexico from 1988-91, said he is seeking bipartisan support for the bill and has been speaking with the National College Players Association and the California senators who sponsored that state’s bill, called the Fair Pay to Play Act.

“From personal experience, I know it’s hard being a student-athlete,” said Moores, R-Albuquerque. “I saw a lot of teammates really struggle financially and a lot of them weren’t able to graduate. Student-athletes have the right to earn a living as they go to college.”

Because the next legislative period in New Mexico is a 30-day session, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham would have to put the issue on the call, allowing it to be heard during the session.

Lujan Grisham’s office said Wednesday that it had not yet decided on the matter given that the call already is quite crowded.

“The governor’s view on this is that it seems like a move in the right direction and as such is worthy of discussion,” spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said. “But of course it could present new challenges, and the 30-day [session] is already going to be very tight.”

Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, California’s Senate Bill 206 will prevent the NCAA from prohibiting a university in that state from competing if its players earn money for the use of their name, image or likeness. The association, which governs college athletics, has called the bill “unconstitutional” and top California universities also opposed it.

Moores said a bill in New Mexico would help student-athletes who come from low-income families. He added, it wouldn’t only help players in the most popular sports such as men’s basketball and football, but also athletes in sports such as swimming and volleyball.

“A lot of kids are coming from an impoverished background,” he said. “The NCAA needs to wake up and get more modern and support athletes’ ability to go to school and get degrees.”

Mario Moccia, the athletic director at New Mexico State University, said there are a number of factors to consider, but acknowledged he could consider being supportive, “If I could see something actually concrete on what it means.”

But he added the momentum to pay college athletes is significant.

“It’s moving faster than, you know, maybe what the NCAA can handle,” Moccia said. “I say this: Marijuana is legal in several states, but the NCAA still does drug testing, and if you’re caught, you’re penalized. Gambling is legal in all 50 states through the new legislation but you can’t gamble as a student-athlete. So if this becomes legal or the law of the land in the state of New Mexico, I don’t know what stops the NCAA from saying, ‘Yeah it’s legal but it’s against NCAA rules and if you participate in this you’re not eligible.’ ”

U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, a former Ohio State football player, is also planning to propose national legislation that would allow college athletes to make endorsement money, ESPN reported Wednesday.

Ohio State University athletic director Gene Smith came out against the California law this week.

New Mexican reporter Will Webber contributed to this report.

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Jens Erik Gould covers politics for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He was a correspondent for Bloomberg News in Mexico City, a regular contributor for TIME in California, and produced the video series Bravery Tapes.

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