De­San­tis signs ath­lete pay bill

Is­sue of com­pen­sa­tion for univer­sity stu­dents still far from set­tled

Orlando Sentinel - - Front Page - By Iliana Limón Romero, Matt Murschel and Edgar Thomp­son

With the stroke of a pen, Florida Gov. Ron De­San­tis put more pres­sure on the NCAA, uni­ver­si­ties through­out the state and Congress to re­solve con­flict­ing guid­ance and al­low ath­letes to be paid for use of their im­age and like­ness.

De­San­tis signed an ath­lete com­pen­sa­tion bill Fri­day that al­lows col­lege stu­dents to have pro­fes­sional rep­re­sen­ta­tion through agents li­censed by the state or at­tor­neys in good stand­ing with the Florida bar. The ad­vis­ers can help them cash in on en­dorse­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties based on their ath­letic suc­cess or so­cial me­dia fol­low­ing.

“We’re not talk­ing about you get a schol­ar­ship to Florida State or Mi­ami and the uni­ver­si­ties are go­ing to pay you to play. That’s not what we’re talk­ing about,” De­San­tis said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in the Univer­sity of Mi­ami’s foot­ball in­door prac­tice fa­cil­ity.

De­San­tis, who was the cap­tain of the Yale Univer­sity base­ball team and joined by for­mer col­lege

ath­letes at his sign­ing cer­e­mony, called it “a mat­ter of fair­ness,” ar­gu­ing col­lege mu­si­cians should not be able to make money gen­er­ated by their YouTube chan­nels while a col­lege ath­lete can­not.

The leg­is­la­tion would have al­lowed for­mer UCF kicker Don­ald De La Haye to be paid ad rev­enue gen­er­ated by his YouTube videos in­stead of los­ing his schol­ar­ship. He later set­tled a law­suit against UCF, ar­gu­ing his First Amend­ment and due process rights had been vi­o­lated.

Law­suits filed by for­mer ath­letes sparked a surge in ath­lete com­pen­sa­tion leg­is­la­tion na­tion­wide.

De­San­tis was not the first to sign this sort of leg­is­la­tion, but the state has the most ag­gres­sive time­line, with com­pen­sa­tion to be­gin 2021.

Cal­i­for­nia Gov. Gavin New­som signed the first ath­lete com­pen­sa­tion bill into law, but it won’t go into ef­fect un­til 2023.

While De­San­tis touted Florida col­leges as a great des­ti­na­tion for re­cruits now that they can be com­pen­sated, the is­sue is far from set­tled.

UCF, Florida and Florida State of­fi­cials, along with their af­fil­i­ate con­fer­ences, did not re­spond to or de­clined Or­lando Sen­tinel re­quests for com­ment on Fri­day, but they have op­posed the bill lead­ing up to the sign­ing cer­e­mony and ar­gued the is­sue should be set­tled at the fed­eral level.

An NCAA com­mit­tee rolled out its own pro­posal for com­pen­sat­ing ath­letes two months ago, fo­cus­ing heav­ily on al­low­ing them to make money off en­dorse­ments posted on so­cial me­dia and au­to­graph sign­ings, but con­flicted with Florida’s law al­low­ing play­ers to work with en­dorse­ment ad­vis­ers and reach deals with shoe com­pa­nies.

The NCAA com­mit­tee also didn’t sup­port al­low­ing ath­letes to grant li­censes, an is­sue that would need to be re­solved in or­der for Elec­tronic Arts’ Mait­land-based stu­dio to re­sume pro­duc­ing its pop­u­lar NCAA Foot­ball video game se­ries. The com­pany stopped pro­duc­tion af­ter it was sued for us­ing col­lege ath­letes’ images with­out com­pen­sat­ing them.

“The re­al­ity is, there are par­tial an­swers to im­por­tant ques­tions at this point and we’re all go­ing to need com­plete an­swers and we’re all go­ing to have to con­trib­ute for com­plete an­swers,” SEC com­mis­sioner Greg Sankey told the Or­lando Sen­tinel in May. “There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done be­fore we’re fully in this new ap­proach of ath­letes par­tic­i­pat­ing in en­dorse­ment ac­tiv­ity.”

The At­lantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and South­east­ern con­fer­ences — more com­monly known as Power Five con­fer­ences — have asked Congress to pass leg­is­la­tion that would re­solve con­flict­ing guid­ance in var­i­ous states.

The Power Five con­fer­ences made new ar­range­ments to re­tain two Wash­ing­ton-based lob­by­ing firms dur­ing the first three months of this year and paid the firms $10,000 apiece, for a com­bined to­tal of $100,000, ac­cord­ing to USA To­day.

In all in­stances, the dis­clo­sure forms filed by the firms stated that the sole spe­cific lob­by­ing is­sue was: “Is­sues re­lated to de­vel­op­ing a na­tional so­lu­tion to pre­serve the unique model of Amer­i­can col­lege athletics, while mod­ern­iz­ing the sys­tem to in­crease eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity for all student-ath­letes on is­sues sur­round­ing their name, im­age, and like­ness.”

It was the first time the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC had spent money on fed­eral lob­by­ing, ac­cord­ing to USA To­day.

Be­fore the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, Congress held hear­ings on the is­sue and vowed to work on broad leg­is­la­tion, but the is­sue has faded from the spot­light.

The Power Five con­fer­ences sent a let­ter to Congress in May urg­ing it to in­ter­cede soon be­cause Florida’s law will go into ef­fect on July 1, 2021. The News Ser­vice of Florida con­trib­uted to this re­port. Email Iliana Limón Romero at il­imon@or­lan­dosen­tinel.com, Edgar Thomp­son at egth­omp­son@or­lan­dosen­tinel.com and Matt Murschel at mmurschel@or­lan­dosen­tinel.com.

LYNNE SLADKY/AP

Gov. Ron De­San­tis, cen­ter, signs a bill that would al­low col­lege ath­letes in the state to earn money from en­dorse­ment deals Fri­day at the Univer­sity of Mi­ami in Co­ral Gables.

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