While student-athletes and colleges and universities across the country await an anticipated response from the NCAA’s established working group regarding name, image and likeness rights, a growing number of states continue to announce their intention to circumvent current NCAA Bylaws and introduce legislation to provide student-athletes with the opportunity to capitalize on their name, image and likeness. New Jersey has now added their name to ever-growing list of states willing to challenge the NCAA.

New Jersey State Senators Joseph Lagana and Sandra Cunningham have introduced a bill entitled the New Jersey Fair Play Act, which would allow student-athletes in New Jersey to earn compensation for the use of their name, image and likeness.

The proposed legislation, which has yet to be assigned a formal number, is modeled after legislation that has already been signed into law in California by Senator Gavin Newsom and similar bills currently being considered in Florida, Georgia, New York, South Carolina and Minnesota.

Senator Lagana commented, “The restrictions placed on our student-athletes are fundamentally unfair. A lot of people, including many at the NCAA, earn large amounts of money off of the blood, sweat and tears of talented young New Jerseyans.” He added, “As a former college athlete, I…cannot overlook the inequality created when students that excel in other disciplines, such as the arts, are not restricted in seeking endorsements.”

Pursuant to the proposed Lagana-Cunningham legislation, student-athletes in New Jersey would be able to earn money for the use of their name, image or likeness without effecting the terms of their student-athlete scholarships. The bill’s language also states that any four-year institution would be prohibited from joining any athletic association or organization that prevents a student-athlete from earning endorsement compensation.

While the bill does protect the right of student-athletes to market their name, image and likeness for video games and endorsement opportunities for clothing manufacturers and food and beverage companies and allows the use of professional representation services to negotiate those contracts, it does contain some specific restrictions. The current proposal specifically prohibits student-athletes from having their name, image or likeness associated or used in any way in connection with adult entertainment, alcohol, gambling, tobacco and electronic smoking, pharmaceuticals, controlled dangerous substances or firearms.

Commenting on the introduction of her proposed legislation, Senator Cunningham, the co-sponsor of New Jersey’s Fair Play Act, stated, “Universities are making immense profits from their athletic departments and while students receive scholarships, one serious injury can leave them with no scholarship, no way to pay for the remainder of their degree and no real path on how to move forward with their life li or their career.” She added, “The time has come for us to stand shoulder to shoulder with our student-athletes and stand up to the NCAA’s outdates and unfair rules.”

Jackson Lewis’ Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group will continue to monitor this proposed New Jersey legislation as well as other legislation that is either discussed or introduced around the country. Please feel free to reach out to any member of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group with questions.

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Photo of Gregg E. Clifton Gregg E. Clifton

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in…

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in the collegiate and professional sports world. He has advised numerous professional franchises on general labor and employment issues, including Title III ADA regulatory compliance and wage and hour issues. He serves as lead counsel for several Major League Baseball teams in their salary arbitration matters and has represented NCAA and NAIA collegiate clients regarding rules compliance, investigatory matters and in disciplinary hearings. In addition, he has handled Title IX investigations and compliance issues for NCAA and NAIA member institutions. Mr. Clifton has also worked extensively in the area of agent regulation and enforcement in professional and college sports and regularly provides counsel on issues relating to NCAA and NAIA amateurism issues and athlete eligibility questions. He has also served as an expert witness in matters involving sports agents’ work and responsibilities, as well as athlete compensation issues.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, he spent six years as Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Team Sports for Gaylord Sports Management. He also served as President of the Athlete and Entertainment Division for famed sports attorney Bob Woolf’s firm, Woolf Associates, in Boston.

Mr. Clifton began his career as an Associate at Jackson Lewis where he focused his practice on traditional labor law. He continues to counsel clients in the areas of collective bargaining negotiations, representation cases, arbitrations and National Labor Relations Board matters.

Mr. Clifton frequently serves as an expert speaker to law schools, including Harvard University, Boston College, Hofstra University and Arizona State University, and bar associations regarding sports law issues, including agent regulation and salary arbitration. He is also often cited as an expert source in national news media for his commentary and opinion on legal issues in sports.