Florida lawmaker: NCAA compensation plan won’t help many students

Lawmaker who sponsored Florida bill wants ‘justice for college athletes’

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Recommendations backed Wednesday by NCAA leaders to help college athletes earn money off the field won’t help many students, contends a Florida lawmaker who was an architect of a bill this year to let athletes market themselves.

State Rep. Chip LaMarca, R-Lighthouse Point, initially tweeted Wednesday that the framework backed by the NCAA Board of Governors was encouraging, but “more substantive action is needed, and quickly to achieve justice for college athletes.”

But LaMarca, who helped sponsor an athlete-compensation bill (SB 646) approved in March by the Legislature, later issued a news release saying the support given by the NCAA’s top governing body is “about protecting their pockets, not about student-athletes.”

The NCAA proposal awaits feedback from schools, with a formal proposal expected by October and a final vote by the board by January.

State Sen. Debbie Mayfield, a Rockledge Republican who also led efforts to pass the athlete-compensation bill this year, was more supportive of the NCAA action.

“A step in the right direction from the @NCAA,” Mayfield tweeted. “College athletes across the country should have the opportunity to receive reasonable compensation from the use of their likeness, image or name.”

The NCAA plan would allow colleges to receive compensation for third-party endorsements related to and separate from athletics, according to a news release from the organization. It also supports compensation through such things as social media, personal appearances and businesses that athletes start.

"Allowing promotions and third-party endorsements is uncharted territory," Michael Drake, the NCAA board chairman and president of Ohio State University, said in a prepared statement.

The NCAA release said athletes could appear in advertisements and refer to their sports and schools, but they couldn’t use school logos in ads.

ESPN reported the recommendations leave "room for the NCAA and schools to regulate the types of deals athletes might be allowed to sign in the future and the monetary value of individual contracts.”

LaMarca said the recommendations don’t meet the proposed changes approved by the Legislature. The bill, which still needs Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature, would not take effect until July 1, 2021, with the delay designed to give the NCAA time to make its own changes.

“The recommendations today included backtracking on group licensing, which would be allowed under SB 646,” LaMarca said in his statement. “Another recommendation from the NCAA includes potentially regulating sneaker and apparel companies from entering into third-party advertising agreements with collegiate athletes.”

Florida’s bill would establish rights for students and schools.

Students would be allowed to get professional representation through agents licensed by the state or attorneys in good standing with The Florida Bar.

Colleges and universities would be prohibited from putting restrictions on athletes earning outside compensation or receiving professional representation. Schools wouldn’t be able to revoke or reduce scholarships of athletes who earn off-field pay.

The bill would prohibit college athletes from making personal deals that conflict with the terms of team contracts.

Florida’s bill was spurred by a 2019 California law that will allow college athletes in that state to hire agents and sign endorsement deals starting in 2023. DeSantis, a former college baseball player, is expected to sign the bill.

“When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signs SB 646, Florida’s collegiate athletes will be liberated from these restrictions,” LaMarca said. “But every student athlete across the 50 states should be able to earn from their talent. If the third largest state can do it, then so can this collegiate organization. With a global pandemic challenging our economy, now more than ever students must have the flexibility to continue their education and provide for themselves and their families.”

LaMarca pointed to a recent study from the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University that found up to 19 percent of college athletes suffer from homelessness and 24 percent struggle with food insecurity.

“This picture does not reflect the utopian vision that the NCAA would have you believe exists in college sports today,” LaMarca said.

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