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Gov. DeSantis signs bill to allow Florida college athletes to be paid from endorsements

For years, people have asked: “Should college athletes be paid?” On Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis answered that question with a resounding “Yes.”

The Republican governor signed into law a bill to allow college student-athletes to receive endorsement money. The new law will enable college athletes to get paid for their name, image, and likeness. The SB 646: Intercollegiate Athlete Compensation and Rights bill was passed by the Florida Senate in March by a 37-2 vote before DeSantis signed it into law on Friday.

The new law has some restrictions, including 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.”

SB 646 also states that colleges and universities are not allowed to pay athletes directly.

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The law will go into effect on July 1, 2021. Florida will become the first state to allow college athletes to get paid, leapfrogging California and Colorado, where similar laws won’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2023. There are two dozen other states that are considering similar proposals.

“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 Friday afternoon at the University of Miami’s football practice facility. “I viewed it as something that was a matter of fairness.”

DeSantis acknowledged that the new law might help collegiate sports programs in Florida steal some talent away from universities in other states.

“For all of our great high school players, stay in state,” DeSantis said. “I see people going to Alabama and Clemson — and I know they’ve got good programs — but there’s nothing better than winning a national championship in your home state. So maybe this will be an added incentive.”

“I just want to say Florida is leading on this and if you’re a blue-chip high school recruit out there trying to figure out where to go I think any of our Florida schools is a great landing spot,” DeSantis added.

“We send a very clear message to the NCAA, the SEC, the Big Ten — all these organizations — that we’re serious about doing the right thing when it comes to student-athletes,” said Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fla.)

The NCAA had fought for decades for colleges to retain all of the school’s sports revenues, excluding paying student-athletes. Finally in April, the NCAA’s Board of Governors agreed to allow college athletes to earn money from their name, image, and likeness starting in January 2021.

“We approved legislation for student-athletes to receive compensation for third-party endorsements,” Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith said in April.

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