A law allowing college athletes to begin cashing in on name, image and likeness rights in July remains in flux Friday. The House has amended a measure reinstating that July 1, 2021, start date, meaning the Senate must again approve the overall bill before that date can take effect.
The Legislature had already approved a bill during the 2020 Session — with GOP support — allowing athletes to make money off their name, image and likeness starting on July 1, 2021. But Wednesday evening, GOP Sen. Travis Hutson introduced a last minute amendment that would delay that law from going into effect until July 1, 2022.
That amendment was tacked onto a bill regulating transgender athletes. Those transgender athlete regulations had already generated plenty of controversy, even from the NCAA itself. The NCAA warned Florida could lose out on major college events. But Republicans had claimed throughout the Session they would not allow the NCAA to bully the Legislature on the issue.
The provision delaying athlete pay, however, did align directly with the NCAA’s preferred outcome. Now just two days later, Republicans are seeking to return to the July 2021 start date for compensation rights.
Democrats repeatedly peppered Republicans with questions as to why they reversed course just two days after moving the compensation start date back by one year.
Republican Rep. David Smith, who sponsored the underlying legislation, argued the delay was approved to allow universities additional time to regulate what is and is not allowed under the athlete compensation program. But he said after hearing pushback from the college athletic community, and the harm the delay could cause to athletes, he and his colleagues sought to undo the change.
Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith had another theory.
“Everyone knows why you didn’t see it and you’re now trying to fix it. Everyone knows. It’s because Republican members were busy high-fiving each other and celebrating the passage of a law that expels and humiliates transgender students.”
Rep. Anna Eskamani, also a Democrat, didn’t mince words when debating the bill. She took umbrage with the fact that lawmakers were compelled to reinstate the original compensation date after hearing from those affected, but didn’t heed the comments from the transgender community about their concerns with the transgender sports bill.
“And so the question that I bring for you today and you can take this into next Session, is why did some voices mater more to you than others? Why did the messages from trans kids and their parents not even move you, but 24 hours of tweets and articles in Sports Illustrated did?” she stormed on the House Floor.
Early Friday morning, Hutson sought to undo the compensation change. He amended a bill dealing with the State University Free Seat Program (HB 845) to keep in place the July 1, 2021, start date after all. The reversal came after outcry from major college athletes within the state, as many had been recruited to Florida schools under the premise the compensation provision would go into effect this year. The delay could have caused unrest among those athletes and universities.
The Senate approved the measure reinstating the July 2021 start date Friday morning. But when the bill arrived in the House, GOP Rep. Jay Trumbull introduced an additional amendment, meaning the Senate must again weigh in to decide whether to accept the new language.
Trumbull’s amendment blocks postsecondary institutions from using state funds to “join or maintain membership in an association whose decisions or proposed decisions are a result of, or in response to, actions proposed or adopted by the Legislature, if such decisions or proposed decisions will result in a negative fiscal impact to the state.”
Democrats pointed out the NCAA has threatened to pull events from the state due to the transgender athlete bill, thereby causing “a negative fiscal impact to the state.” Trumbull denied the provision directly targeted the NCAA and stated schools may remain a member of the NCAA or any other group which boycotts the state.
However, the schools cannot use state funds to maintain a membership. Schools that violate the restriction may be asked to withdraw from the organization or else be denied future state money.
“We don’t want to stand or allow an association that uses our hard-earned taxpayer dollars to inflict financial retribution on the taxpayers of Florida,” Trumbull explained. NCAA memberships are also paid via auxiliary funds, not with state money.
Still, Democratic Rep. Omari Hardy argued Republicans are engaging in the very “cancel culture” they have decried over the past several years.
“With this amendment, we are furthering ‘cancel culture’ because we don’t like what the NCAA and what other organizations have to say about what we do in this building.”