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Drifting afield from the task at hand


Last month I complained about state and federal legislators spending a lot of time on things not relevant to governing.

My conclusion? They’ve spent a lot of time working on solutions to problems that don’t exist, as we face the biggest health, economic and social crisis of our generation.

As our New Mexico State Legislature heads into its final days, I can’t help but make one more dig.

New Mexico Senate Bill 94 passed in the House of Representatives. It went through debate in two Senate committees, discussion and voting on the Senate floor, debate in two House committees and, finally, discussion and voting on the House floor.

This year, more than ever, with the global pandemic looming, legislators need to be laser-focused on what’s critical, especially on a rebound from the crisis.

Back to Senate Bill 94.

If the governor signs the bill, it means that New Mexico’s college athletes could be paid for commercial endorsements or use of their likeness. Our state’s law would not overturn the NCAA’s rules, under which those payments are prohibited. Such payments could cost the student-athletes and their schools penalties, suspensions or loss of eligibility.

Let’s put on hold the fact our legislature spent all that time on something forbidden nationally.

Let’s look at the practicality.

Athletes typically asked to do those endorsements are the super-duper-stars. For college, that would mean Heisman Trophy candidates, college basketball player of the year candidates. A note to the state legislature, and with all due respect to New Mexico’s dedicated college athletes, those super-duper-stars are as rare in our state as El Chupacabra.

In the past 25 years, this state has produced exactly two college athletes of that caliber: University of New Mexico football star Brian Urlacher and New Mexico State basketball star Pascal Siakam. Urlacher was consensus All-America in college and is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Siakam was honorable mention All-America and WAC Player of the year as an Aggie. As a pro with the Toronto Raptors, he’s won an NBA championship, Most Improved Player and an All-Star selection.

Of course, those credentials aren’t requirements for a player’s endorsement. Dozens of charismatic Aggies would have been great spokes-athletes. I’d love to have seen a Las Cruces Bulletin ad featuring photos of one of the smaller Aggie volleyball liberos, such as 5-foot-0 Kaylee Neal, and former Aggie men’s basketballer 7-foot-6 Sim Bhullar – or maybe just their footprints. It would be fun to see Aggie basketballer and Las Cruces native Johnny McCants saying, “Nobody beats a Sisbarro Deal” in a video.

I suspect, though, if any Aggie or Lobo athletes got an offer to do a paid endorsement, their coaches would say, “No way!” It’s doubtful they would want to risk NCAA sanctions.

It’s unclear what prompted legislators to toss up this political non-football. Maybe they were disappointed the annual House/Senate basketball game had to be canceled, and just wanted to talk sports for a while.

Richard Coltharp