Florida is latest state to sign NIL legislation into law

COLUMBIA - Not content to let the glacial bureaucracies of the NCAA or the federal government take their time in deciding on name, image and likeness rights for college athletes, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law Friday that will allow college athletes to make money off of NIL rights starting July 1, 2021.

Florida's bill follows in the footsteps of similar bills signed by the governors of California and Colorado, but moves the timeline up significantly: the other two bills were scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2023.

Amateurism rules currently prohibit college athletes from signing endorsement deals, selling autographs or memorabilia, earning money for public or private appearances or otherwise pursuing business deals in relation to their association with a college sports program while enrolled in college and on athletic scholarship. Many prominent athletes have a significant following on social media platforms, and when endorsement deals are allowed, those platforms will likely be the first frontier of collegiate endorsements.

The signing of California's "Fair Pay to Play" bill in February, the first in the nation, passed with a combined 112-0 vote in both houses of the California Legislature. It helped force the NCAA's hand, and the governing body of college athletics released an outline of a plan in April that would allow college athletes to sign endorsement deals.

Athletes would be allowed to endorse products and use their name, sport and school to identify themselves, but could not use school logos or other trademarked property in the endorsements and would be prohibited from endorsing gambling operations or substances banned by the NCAA.

In an April 29 media release, the NCAA also called upon Congress to enact national legislation to govern NIL rights that would "ensure federal preemption over state name, image and likeness laws," among other protections for the NCAA's business model, including shoring up the distinction between college and professional athletes as well as classifying college athletes as not employees of a university or its athletic department, essentially an antitrust exemption like the one granted to Major League Baseball.

Their fear, which DeSantis all but confirmed Friday, was patchwork legislation at the state level would lead to an uneven and unequal implementation of NIL laws nationally. Florida's bill passed 98-14 in the state house of representatives and 37-2 in the senate in mid-March, and at least 20 other states are considering or have already voted on "Fair Pay to Play" legislation.

DeSantis announced his bill at the indoor practice facility of the University of Miami, saying, "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," according to the Athletic's Manny Navarro.

"For all of our great high school players, stay in state," DeSantis added. "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."

Representatives in the Missouri House of Representatives have introduced similar legislation, with Rep. Nick Schroer (R-O'Fallon) and David Evans (R-West Plains) filing House Bill 1564 - which absorbed legislation with similar intent, HB 1748 (Rep. Vic Allred, R-Parkville) and HB 1792 (Rep. Wes Rogers, D-Kansas City) - in December.

The bill passed committee by a 12-1 vote March 5, and has been referred to the House Rules and Legislative Oversight committee, which includes Rep. Travis Fitzwater (R-Holts Summit).

HB 1748 would prohibit colleges and universities from upholding "any rule, requirement, standard, or other limitation that prevents a student of that institution from fully participating in intercollegiate athletics without penalty and earning compensation as a result of the use of the student's name, image, likeness rights, or athletic reputation."

The bill would also allow college athletes to sign agents, financial advisors or lawyers to help manage contracts, and prevents endorsements that require sponsor logos to be worn or shown during games or practices, among other guidelines.

Missouri's proposed legislation would go into effect July 1, 2021, like Florida's, if passed.

Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk shared the NCAA's concern state-level implementation of NIL legislation would lead to unequal outcomes.

"The devil's in the details," Sterk said Thursday in a video call with reporters. "The NCAA put out some broad things on that, obviously you've seen we've been having discussions. I think it'll take some kind of federal legislation because of all the states having different types of rules and to have something consistent across the country, so it'll take some action there.

"What that looks like, I don't know, but I think protecting - giving opportunity for students I think is a good thing, that other students might have, but you don't want to, the thing is, worrying about, is the boosters getting involved in illegal recruiting, if you will. A lot of things that have to be worked out that I think by this January we should have some better idea of what that looks like."

According to the NCAA's own timeline, each division will have final legislation drafted to update NIL rules by the end of October, and a vote to approve the legislation will be conducted by Jan. 31, 2021, to implement the new rules in time for the 2021-22 school year.