College athletes looking to make money off their name, image and likeness (NIL) are now awaiting the Governor’s signature on a bill that landed on his desk late Wednesday.
The legislation (HB 845) reinstates a July 1, 2021 start date to allow athletes at Florida universities to generate revenue off NIL rights, such as through advertisements, signing autographs and other forms of promotion.
In 2020, lawmakers approved a bill — with GOP support — setting up the July 1, 2021 start date. But during the final week of the 2021 Session in April, GOP Sen. Travis Hutson introduced a last minute amendment to delay the compensation law from going into effect until July 1, 2022. The amendment was tacked onto a bill regulating transgender athletes, which Gov. Ron DeSantis has already signed.
Following outcry from major college athletes and universities toward the end of Session, Republican lawmakers agreed to a separate measure undoing the change regarding NIL rights. Republican Rep. David Smith sponsored the legislation.
GOP Rep. Jay Trumbull also offered an amendment blocking 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.”
That seemed directed at the National Collegiate Athletic Association, who threatened to withhold championship events in states that passed discriminatory bills like the transgender sports bill. But Trumbull denied the second provision directly targeted the group. During discussion in the Senate, Hutson explained that NCAA fees won’t be affected, as they’re paid with auxiliary funds, not state money.
“I don’t believe it affects our universities or colleges at all,” Hudson said. “I’ve talked to universities such as FSU and the University of Florida. They agree with my assessment that this will not cause any harm to them.”
Gov. DeSantis has said he’d approve the bill moving the start date back to July 1 of this year. If he follows through, the move would come just days after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling chipped away at the NCAA’s power to limit benefits to athletes. Some analysts have speculated that case could foreshadow an end to the NCAA’s amateur rules altogether.
The NCAA has opposed individual states moving forward with athlete compensation rights. The group has preferred a single, national solution passed by Congress, which would allow the NCAA to more easily and directly appeal for influence over those rules.
Also on Wednesday, the NCAA said it would begin a partial waiver of its rules cracking down on athletes who make money off NIL rights. But Republican Rep. Chip LaMarca — who pushed the original bill in 2020 allowing athletes to cash in on NIL rights — has previously criticized the NCAA’s NIL reforms as inadequate.
College athletes are currently considered amateurs, though many receive a scholarship to attend their respective universities. In the past, the NCAA has been incredibly restrictive regarding rules on making money outside sports. In 2017, a kicker from the University of Central Florida was declared ineligible for making money off his YouTube channel. Athletes have also been punished for making money from autographs.