Lawmakers narrowly advance bill to allow college athletes to be compensated for their likeness

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The New Jersey State Senate narrowly advanced a bill that would allow college athletes to be compensated if their name, image or likeness is used.

The bill advanced Monday by just one vote in the Senate.

“It gives athletes where the universities have made a fortune off these athletes’ images, the ability to earn a little bit of money,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney.

The Fair Play Act also allows these athletes to keep their scholarships. Similar legislation is already being considered in 31 other states. It comes after the NCAA voted last October to allow college athletes to get some profit off their fame.

The athletes would not be allowed to hire an agent or be associated with adult entertainment, alcohol or gambling.

But before the bill was advanced in New Jersey, it encountered some bipartisan opposition.

“I would hit the pause button here. I’m going to vote no,” said Democratic state Sen. Paul Sarlo.

"Football - that is a team game. You have some people that become outstanding stars. Running backs, quarterbacks, etc. But they can't be outstanding stars unless they have seven linemen in front of them, opening holes and etc. and I think there could be some resentment,” said Republican state Sen. Sam Thompson.

There was also some concern that the money and endorsement deals would favor male athletes and sports and ignore women athletes.

"We provide some of the best student-athletes – not just from men, women’s sports as well - across the country and we need to protect those students and we need to make sure they're treated fairly,” said Sarlo. “But we also need to make sure we're on a level playing field across the country."

The Senate president said that he was surprised by some of the pushback.

“This should be a federal issue. But like everything else - minimum wage, paid family leave - it starts at the state levels. You don't get things moving out of the federal government too often until you get critical mass locally,” Sweeney said.

The bill advanced with a bare majority of 21 votes. It now heads to the state Assembly. If it passes there, it will head to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk for approval.

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