College athletes, coaches decry possible delay in compensation law

The Associated Press
Florida Rep. Chip LaMarca talks on his phone during a break in a legislative session Thursday at the Capitol in Tallahassee.

TALLAHASSEE — Just when some college athletes in Florida were readying to cash in on their athletic prowess, the state's Legislature has unexpectedly delayed their ability to hire agents and ink endorsement deals.

The curve ball came in a tiny last-minute amendment inserted into an education bill in the waning days of Florida's legislative session.

“Are we serious right now?? That little black line in a bill with more than 70 pages to continue to screw all these athletes?? Make it make sense," tweeted McKenzie Milton, the quarterback at Florida State University, home to some of the country's most heralded collegiate teams.

That amendment, tucked into more than 70 pages of legislation late Wednesday, went undetected by some lawmakers — including the Florida lawmaker who sponsored a bill last year allowing college athletes in Florida to profit from their name, image and likeness much like celebrities do.

That law was supposed to take effect in two months, but the amendment would instead delay the law from being implemented until July 2022.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, a former college baseball player, championed the ability of college athletes to make money from their names.

“Our universities and the NCAA profit millions of dollars off our names,” D’Eriq King, the quarterback for the University of Miami’s football team, said in a tweet. “I believe that athletes deserve to receive compensation for our Name, Image, and Likeness.”

King attended the signing of the college compensation bill last June and he urged the governor to veto the bill, as did Blake James, Miami’s athletic director.

Under the governor’s leadership, James tweeted, “our state has been a leader in NIL legislation on behalf of student-athletes at schools across our state. Now, more than ever, our student-athletes need his leadership and encourage him to veto SB 1028.”

The Republican governor could veto the bill — but doing so would also kill the broader education bill, which would have authorized public universities to sponsor charter schools.

A veto would also kill another last-minute provision attached to the schools bill that would ban transgender girls and women from playing on public school teams intended for athletes born as girls.

When the legislation was signed into law last year, Florida became the second state behind California to block the NCAA from prohibiting student athletes from profiting from their names and likeness. Other states soon followed.

While California was first out the gate with a law, its version is set to take effect in 2023.

“I could not be more disappointed with the actions taken yesterday,” said Rep. Chip LaMarca, who sponsored the college athletes bill. “In one move, the Florida Legislature made our state both anti-economic freedom and anti-student athlete."

The amendment was inserted into the charter schools bill amid concerns that student athletes in Florida could run afoul of the NCAA, and possibly lose scholarships.

FSU coach Mike Norvell opined on Twitter later Thursday, saying "There is no reason to wait to do the right thing.

"The state of Florida was a leader on NIL and, as other states quickly tried to follow our model, college athletes in Florida have been able to position themselves to be ready to benefit starting July 1, 2021. #KeepTheDate"

For years, the NCAA had argued that allowing athletes to profit from their prowess in the field or arena would do away with the distinction between amateur and professional athletes — a notion that has been increasingly dismissed by advocates who say colleges and the NCAA itself have profited for years from student athletics.

 If DeSantis OKs the bill, it would put Florida behind Alabama and Mississippi, whose governors recently have signed college-sports NIL laws that are set to take effect July 1.

This means that barring further action, he and seniors from schools like FSU, Florida, Miami, UCF, and so on will not be able to make endorsement money in the final year of their college career. 

UF and FSU have multi-tiered programs in place designed to empower student-athletes to capitalize on their name, image and likeness.

Miami head football coach Manny Diaz called any delay "unacceptable." In a tweet Thursday, he asked DeSantis to "use his veto power to fix this."

"While the rest of the states are moving forward to follow OUR lead, we inexcusably take a giant step backwards." 

The governor "was on the forefront of NIL legislation," Diaz added. "He can protect the bill he has championed for the last few years."

Florida coach Dan Mullen echoed Thursday the thoughts of state athletes and coaches.

"The state of Florida needs to enact NIL legislation in 2021, as was originally planned. We need to do what’s best for our student-athletes," Mullen wrote on his social media account.

The USA TODAY NETWORK - Florida's Antwan Staley, Jim Rosica, Zac Anderson and John Kennedy contributed to this report.