DeSantis backs proposed legislation providing benefits to student-athletes

South Florida lawmakers file bills that would allow college players to be paid

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday he is supporting proposed legislation that will allow college athletes to be compensated.

DeSantis was joined by former Florida State football players Corey Simon and Nick Maddox during the announcement in Tallahassee.

The Republican governor said he usually doesn't look to California for policy information after that state recently passed legislation that would allow NCAA student-athletes to receive endorsement deals.

"But I think that California was on the right track saying that there needs to be reform to athletes being able to use at the collegiate level their name, image and likeness," DeSantis said.

State Rep. Chip LaMarca, R-Lighthouse Point, and Minority Leader Kionne McGhee, D-Miami, have sponsored House bills that would allow student-athletes to benefit from their status.

"I'm here to say that I support the direction that these legislators are going," DeSantis said. "I think this is something the legislature should tackle in this coming session. I also say that understanding that, of course, there are going to be issues that need to be addressed, but I'm confident that those issues could be addressed in a way that will maintain college athletics as being a really special thing, but also provide the ability for our student-athletes to benefit just like anybody else would be able to benefit."

DeSantis fondly recalled the day when he was able to play the popular NCAA Football video game, which featured the likeness of players on their respective teams. EA Sports discontinued the game in 2014 after threat of legislation from former players who took aim at the NCAA.

He also referenced former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Chris Weinke, who played professional football before returning to school to play football for the Seminoles.

Former Florida State quarterback and 2000 Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke has his No. 16 jersey retired during the annual Garnet and Gold spring game April 7, 2001, in Tallahassee, Florida.

"So he made a lot of money and then he ended up going and being a national championship-winning quarterback," DeSantis said. "You have students who are college football players during the fall and then play pro baseball during the summer and make money doing that. And so I don't know that this is necessarily going to be as big of a change. I mean, I think it's a reasonable path forward, and I think handled well, I think, could make a big difference."

McGhee said this is a bipartisan issue.

"It's a fairness bill," McGhee said of HB 251. "It's about the free market."

Former Florida State Seminoles defensive tackle Corey Simon speaks during a news conference with Gov. Ron DeSantis, Oct. 24, 2019, in Tallahassee, Florida.

Simon, who was a standout defensive tackle for the Seminoles in the 1990s, spoke about college football players who leave school early to declare for the NFL draft and can't return to school because of a rule that deems them ineligible.

"Some of them may put their name in the hat to get drafted earlier than they should," Simon said. "Well, what that does to them, if they don't get drafted, they no longer have that college scholarship to go back to and finish school. And they make no money while they were here on the university campus."

That's something this group hopes will change soon.

"Student-athletes should not be treated worse than anyone else," DeSantis said.

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