Florida bill proposes college athletes can profit from name, likeness

There may be no more polarizing and volatile question in college athletics right now than this: Should a student-athlete be allowed to profit off his or her likeness?

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the “Fair Pay to Play Act” on Monday, which would allow a student-athlete in the state to profit off their name, image and likeness.

This would open the door, beginning in 2023, for athletes to hire agents and make money from endorsement deals, just like a professional athlete.

And the wave has spread to more states, as well as Florida. Kionne McGhee, the Florida House of Representatives’ minority leader, filed a bill on Monday that “Authorizes students participating in intercollegiate athletics to receive specified compensation; provides requirements for specified students, postsecondary educational institutions, certain organizations, & specified representatives; & creates Florida College System Athlete Name, Image, & Likeness Task Force.”

McGhee’s bill has an effective date of July 1, 2020. But his measure will be debated in the house and senate and likely re-written once the Florida Legislature meets in January.

While the bill wouldn’t impact a college athlete in Florida until at least the 2020-21 athletics season, it would open the door for someone to do a commercial for a business or sell clothing with his or her name on it.

Athletes may see the opportunity to benefit from their college career as a bonus, especially if a school is willing or able to help promote them. And schools may have a recruiting advantage if they are able to make a sales pitch to a respective recruit – not just about the quality of the education and the value of a degree but also the earning potential for their name, image or likeness.

FSU coach Willie Taggart said he would be in favor of a measure that allows student-athletes to receive money from their likeness but wants it tied to college graduation.

“Whatever we can do to better and help our student-athletes is always a good thing,” Taggart said on Sept. 23. “If they can profit from their likeness, I think that’s fair. …

“The goal is to graduate and get these young men a degree. It’s just a shame how many guys don’t get their degree. And I think with this bill, it would probably entice some guys to stay in school and make sure they get a degree. More importantly, just a win-win for the student-athlete overall if you do something like that. … I’m a firm believer they should get it when they graduate because that’s when they need it the most, when they don’t have our university to help them anymore and when they get ready to get into the real world.”

In response to Newsom’s bill in California, the NCAA released a statement on Monday saying that it “agrees changes are needed to continue to support student-athletes, but improvement needs to happen on a national level through the NCAA’s rules-making process. Unfortunately, this new law already is creating confusion for current and future student-athletes, coaches, administrators and campuses, and not just in California.”

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