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Even With NCAA Crafting New Rules, Florida Lawmakers To Continue Pressing For Athlete Pay

Aaron M. Sprecher
AP Photo

Florida is among the states looking to force the issue of athlete pay on the NCAA. California passed a law to do so last year. Three House committees held a joint meeting on the subject Monday.

Legislation filed in Florida allows collegiate athletes to be paid for their name, image and likeness. The NCAA precludes athletes from making money on things like endorsement deals and social media accounts. There are two different bills in each chamber looking to address the issue. One of them is being carried by House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee.

“The NCAA has had over 100 years to rectify and get this issue settled,” McGhee said ahead of Monday’s meeting. “They’ve failed to do it, and today what we’re going to do is see a workshop where many different minds come together to create a product that would benefit the students of this great state.”

The joint meeting brought together the House Judiciary, Education and Commerce panels. Republican Rep. Paul Renner chairs of the Judiciary Committee. He wants to go ahead with legislation, despite the NCAA’s claim it’s working on its own plan.

“You need to have responsible reform nationwide at some point, but that doesn’t preclude us from joining other states in taking the lead, in saying ‘This is our expectation – if you’re going to come play sports in Florida these are some minimums you should enjoy,’” Renner told reporters.

Renner said representatives from the NCAA as well as the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference were invited to the meeting. Renner says none accepted that invite.

The NCAA’s governing board has directed its three divisions to consider updating bylaws to allow opportunities for its athletes to profit. It wants to have those updates in place by 2021. The joint House panel heard from subject matter experts, including Gabe Feldman, director of Tulane University’s sports law program. He says states are driving the push for change.

“There’s no question in my mind that the state action has pushed the NCAA not only to consider this internally, but to go to federal congress and say we need help, because we can’t have the states doing this on an individualized basis,” Feldman said. “So I think there’s still an important role for states to play to try to push this forward – there’s an open question about whether it makes sense for it to ultimately happen on the state-by-state level, I think that creates a lot of problems. But I think this is a very important discussion that’s happening in Florida and other states across the country.”

Ramogi Huma is executive director of the National College Players Association. The former University of California Los Angeles football player fielded questions from lawmakers like Rep. Brett Hage:

“Has there been a study done, even if it’s hypothetical, that shows the analytics of what percent of student athletes that would actually affect? Because I think you’re talking about a handful of athletes that could potentially benefit off of this.”

Hage is concerned that only the most popular athletes in the largest conferences and lucrative sports would benefit. Huma says that’s not the case.

“When we’re talking about name, image and likeness, we’re not just talking about the star football player,” Huma answered. “We’re talking about the backup who can start their own business, who can go to their own high school and throw a camp – a lot of things that they can do.”

House Speaker Jose Oliva has expressed his support for allowing collegiate athletes to cash in. Meanwhile, outgoing Senate President Bill Galvano has doubts:

“I have my own reservations about moving college athletes into the realm of professional athletes in many regards,” Galvano told media in October. “I think there may be some things we can do to make it more fair for them – for example in social media interactions and things of that nature. But I expect that that proposal will need to be thoroughly vetted before an ultimate decision is made.”

Each of the college athlete pay bills filed for the 2020 session are waiting for a hearing.

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.