This NY State Senator’s Proposal to Pay College Athletes Could Drastically Change the Shoe Endorsement Game

A state senator from Brooklyn, N.Y. introduced legislation this week that could have major implications for college athletes — and the sneaker endorsement game.

Sen. Kevin Parker proposed a bill that, if passed, would give collegiate players the rights to sell their images, names and likenesses, making it legal for students to sign paid endorsement deals.

Parker modeled his proposal after California Senate Bill 206, known as the Fair Pay to Play Act, which passed the State Assembly last week unanimously and currently waits for signing by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The New York bill has yet to be brought to a vote.

The New York bill differs from the California Fair Pay to Play act in one significant area, contained in an amendment that Parker attached

Parker today told ESPN that he had added an amendment requiring college athletic departments to give students a 15% cut of annual revenues; the money would be divided equally among all student athletes. If the New York bill goes through, it’ll be the first to require colleges to pay players directly.

NCAA regulations prohibit athletes from being paid, both by universities and from outside endorsement deals. But this has led to a huge ongoing problem for the NCAA: the exchange of money under the table.

For instance, in September 2017, court documents alleged Adidas director of global sports Jim Gatto helped orchestrate the payout of $100,000 to high school basketball recruit Brian Bowen in exchange for his signing to University of Louisville, an Adidas-backed school. Gatto was found guilty of several fraud changes related to the case in October 2018, along with former brand consultant Merl Code and sports business manager Christian Dawkins. This March, Dawkins and Code were sentenced to six months in jail, while Gatto received a nine-month sentence.

If Newson gives his OK to the Fair Play to Play Act — he has 30 days from the State Assembly vote to either sign or veto — California will be the first state to make it aboveboard for student athletes to receive endorsement deals. But there could also be a dark side. Marc Beckman, CEO of business development agency DMA United, told FN this could lead to brands forming more restrictive deals with players.

“Now, we’re watching athletic brands take a bigger land grab to apply not just performance-oriented positioning but fashion-oriented as well,” he said. “The way that Russell Westbrook is locked into certain performance obligations with Jordan Brand. … Those types of contractual terms will dictate what these student athletes are wearing both on and off the court.”

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