Lawmakers begin student athlete compensation debate

Published: Jan. 13, 2020 at 4:45 PM EST
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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service

January 13, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Clemson and LSU will battle it out for the National Championship Monday evening.

Ahead of the big game, three Florida House Committees met jointly to discuss the possibility of allowing college athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness.

California was the first to mandate college athletes be allowed to profit off their likeness last year.

Monday’s conversations were the first step towards Florida doing the same.

“What we're truly looking for is how can we best guarantee a fairness system,” said Rep. Kionne McGhee, who is sponsoring one of two bills aimed at allowing college athletes to receive compensation.

The idea has the backing of the Senate President, House Speaker and governor.

All the panelists who testified before House lawmakers also endorse legislation similar to that passed in California.

“The only category in the country that I'm aware of that does not have an unfettered right to their name image and likeness is college athletes,” said Professor Gabe Feldman, Director of the Tulane Sports Law Program.

While the NCAA has argued student athletes are compensated with the education and scholarships they receive, experts like Ramogi Huma, Executive Director of the National College Player Association said it’s not enough.

“A full athletic scholarship leaves over 80 percent of college athletes at FBS athletic programs, that's the top division, living below the federal poverty line,” said Huma.

The NCAA has said it would work to allow athletes to profit off their image, but experts argued Florida putting it into law would keep pressure on the organization.

“The NCAA has not committed to allowing compensation for college athletes. I think it was a bit of a redirect. Just last month they're talking publicly about going to Congress. Instead of coming up with a solution on their own they want to preempt the states and kind of stop what's going on. So we sniffed that out a bit. I think the real change is going to come from the states,” said Huma.

Both bills filed for the 2020 session allow compensation for name, image and likeness.

The Democrats’ plan also includes a task force that would investigate possible changes to college athlete compensation moving forward.

Representatives from the NCAA, SEC and ACC were all invited to attend the discussion.

All turned down the opportunity to appear.

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