DeSantis endorses legislation letting college athletes earn outside pay

    Former FSU football star Corey Simon talks about legislation that would let athletes earn endorsement money. Oct. 2019 Credit: Lloyd Dunkelberger

    Appearing with two former Florida State University football players, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that he supports legislation allowing college athletes to earn money through endorsement deals.

    DeSantis, a conservative Republican, said he likes the new law in California that will let student athletes profit from the sale of products, such as sports jerseys, that bear their names, images, or likenesses.

    “It probably doesn’t surprise a lot of people to know that when I look to see good policy ideas, California is not the first place I look,” DeSantis said at a press conference on Thursday at the state Capitol. “But I think California was on the right track saying there needs to be reform to athletes being able to use at the collegiate level their name, image and likeness.”

    DeSantis said lawmakers should consider a number of bills already filed on the issue for the 2020 session, which begins in January.

    “I also say that understanding that, of course, there are going to be issues that need to be addressed,” said DeSantis, who played baseball at Yale University. “But I’m confident that those issues could be addressed in way that will maintain college athletics as being a really special thing, but also provide the ability of our student athletes to benefit just like anybody else would be able to benefit.”

    Corey Simon and Nick Maddox, who were members of FSU’s 1999 national championship football team, joined DeSantis in making the announcement.

    Simon said college athletes who have to devote time to their sports while also dealing with their academic schedules have a limited ability to take part-time jobs to supplement their income, like regular students.

    “We’ve got to create fairness for these athletes,” said Simon, who played defensive tackle in the NFL. “We’re not asking to be special. We are just asking to be treated fairly.”

    Four bills dealing with the issue have already been filed for the 2020 session.

    One bill (HB 251), sponsored by Miami Democratic Rep. Kionne McGhee, would allow athletes at Florida colleges and universities to receive income from commercial deals beginning in January 2023. The bill creates a task force that will review the issue and offer recommendations before the law takes full effect.

    “Help is on its way,” McGhee said. “It’s a fairness bill. It’s about the free market.”

    The Florida Phoenix previously reported on this issue in this story.