Athlete-Pay Changes Head to DeSantis

TALLAHASSEE — Florida colleges and universities likely will soon be able to help connect student-athletes with endorsement deals under a measure that received final approval Friday in the Florida Senate.

Senators unanimously passed the bill (HB 7B), which also unanimously passed the House on Thursday. It now goes to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

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The bill would revamp what is known as the state’s “NIL” law, which allows athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses, that went into effect in 2021. The law prohibited colleges and universities and their employees from causing “compensation to be directed” to athletes — a prohibition that lawmakers said has hurt Florida schools as they compete with schools in other states for recruits.

The bill would repeal the prohibition.

“While we want more checks and balances, we are behind the eight ball in the state of Florida in the sense that some of the other states have no rules and regulations, and it’s the wild wild west,” Senate sponsor Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, said during a meeting of the Senate Rules Committee before the final vote.

Another part of the measure would shield colleges and universities and their employees, such as coaches, from liability related to actions that could compromise athletes’ endorsement deals.

Schools and employees would not be “liable for any damages to an intercollegiate athlete’s ability to earn compensation for the use of her or his name, image, or likeness resulting from decisions and actions routinely taken in the course of intercollegiate athletics.”

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Hutson said, for example, that protection could help when athletes are disciplined for off-the-field activities.

“Where we are holding a little bit harmless the universities or institutions is, say said student gets caught drinking under the age, and in the normal course of business you’re supposed to suspend someone like that for a couple of games and (they) happen to lose (their) NIL deal, the institutions can be held harmless,” Hutson said.

Lawmakers also included in the bill additional financial-literacy requirements for athletes, such as “entrepreneurship workshops.”

Sen. Corey Simon, R-Tallahassee, touted the financial education requirements. Simon, a former Florida State University football standout who went on to play professionally, said he interacts with young athletes who would benefit from the requirements.

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“There is tremendous pressure, and it starts for many of our young athletes at a very young age, to be the earner. To be the hero that will save a family once they make it,” Simon, who also is president of the Big Bend Pop Warner youth football league, said.

“When this bill came about, it was imperative for our universities to step up and say, ‘We’re going to teach these young people how to deal with the finances that they’re going to be coming into,’” Simon told members of the Rules Committee

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