New Florida Law to Allow College Athletes to Profit from Name, Image and Likeness

Bobby Finke, rising junior at the University of Florida, will be able to make money off his name, image and likeness as a college athlete starting next year, according to a new Florida law. Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill Friday that would allow college athletes in the state to make money from name, image and likeness (NIL) starting July 1, 2021, according to ESPN. The bill puts more pressure on the nationwide movement for college athletes to be able to benefit from the billions of dollars generated each year by the college sports industry.

The NCAA will vote on a nationwide policy that will allow its athletes to earn money off name, image and likeness in January that will go into effect for the 2021-22 school year.  That proposal will have restrictions to differentiate between college sports and professional leagues. The proposal did not however establish those guardrails and who would enforce them. College sport leaders are planning to iron out those details by the end of October and will vote in January. There is no guarantee the proposal will become an official NCAA rule.

NCAA president Mark Emmert and other college sports stakeholders are strongly opposed to having states create new laws that dictate the rules for how college athletes can profit from the use of their NIL. Emmert is concerned that a patchwork of laws would cause student-athletes to pick schools based on where they can make the most money and give some programs an unequal recruiting advantage.

Florida is following the lead from California and Colorado, which passed similar state laws that will not go into effect until January 1, 2023. Florida’s legislation is scheduled to take effect 18 months sooner in July 2021, just before the Tokyo Olympics. This would be extremely beneficial for any Olympic athletes at Florida schools to start making money off their Olympic appearances while they are still in college.

According to reports, roughly two dozen other states are in various stages of considering similar proposals.

In swimming and diving terms, the Florida law would affect the University of Florida, as one of the premier teams in the nation, while the University of Miami and Florida State University have some of the best divers in the NCAA. Florida passing a law allowing student athletes to earn money before any other state could create a recruiting advantage for those schools.

“This whole issue of student-athletes and being able to receive compensations for their likeness or image is something that’s been bubbling to the surface in the last couple years,” DeSantis said during a news conference at the University of Miami’s indoor football practice facility. “I viewed it as something that was a matter of fairness.”

Florida’s law includes restrictions such as saying that payments to athletes must be “commensurate with market value” in order to “preserve the integrity, quality, character, and amateur nature of intercollegiate athletics and to maintain a clear separation between amateur intercollegiate athletics and professional sports.” The law also states explicitly that colleges and universities are not allowed to pay athletes directly.

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