DeSantis signs athlete pay bill
Issue of compensation for university students still far from settled
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 email@example.com, Edgar Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org and Matt Murschel at email@example.com.
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.