TALLAHASSEE (AP) — Florida lawmakers did a reverse play on an athletes compensation bill just before the clock ran out Friday, after college athletes and others called foul on an attempt to delay their ability to hire agents and ink endorsement deals.
After that reversal, college athletes in Florida are again set to finally be able to earn money for their names, images and likeness in July, as set by a bill signed into law last year by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
On Wednesday, a state senator inserted language in a charter schools bill that would have delayed the law’s implementation until next year. That triggered anger among star athletes from some of the state’s most high profile sports programs.
So on Friday, on the final day of Florida’s legislative session, that same lawmaker, Sen. Travis Hutson, calmed the furor by reversing course when he moved to amend another education bill to undo his earlier amendment.
Hutson said he and other lawmakers got assurances Friday morning from the NCAA that student athletes in Florida would not run afoul of the NCAA and possibly lose scholarships.
Lawmakers were clearly under pressure to fix what one lawmaker called a “glitch” in the legislative proceedings.
“If we don’t make this change, we’re hurting those student athletes,” said Rep. David Smith, a Republican.
In the end, both chambers agreed to making the change.
DeSantis, a former college baseball player, championed the ability of college athletes to make money from their names. After DeSantis signed the matter into law, Florida sports teams suddenly became more attractive for some of the country’s top athletes.
The NCAA, which overseas college athletics, has prevented athletes from cashing in on their prowess in the field or arena, arguing that doing so would muddle the distinction between amateur and professional athletes. Advocates have dismissed that argument on many grounds, noting in particular that colleges and the NCAA itself have profited for years from student athletics.
Without the Friday’s buzzer-beating amendment, it would have put the Republican governor in a predicament: He could have vetoed the bill, but that would have also killed the broader education bill, which would have authorized public universities to sponsor charter schools.
But some Democrats had welcomed that prospect because the same bill contained 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.