Athlete pay plan might get ‘morality clause’

By Jim Turner

News Service of Florida

Strip clubs, casinos, breweries and cigarette makers could be benched from a proposal that would let Florida college athletes market themselves off the field.

The House Education Committee last Thursday approved a bill (HB 7051) that would allow athletes to get paid for the use of their names, images and likenesses. But before the vote, sponsor Chip LaMarca, R-Lighthouse Point, said he’s had discussions with officials at several state schools about branding requirements.

Representative Chip LaMarca, who would like to have a morality clause written into the law on athletes getting paid for their images, has discussions the issues with officials at several state schools about branding requirements.
Photo special to the Outlook

“There’s not anything in the language of this bill, but in speaking to a lot of the universities, the University of Florida comes to mind, Florida Atlantic, both had concerns about the types of companies or contracts that might be entered into, somewhat similar to a morality clause,” LaMarca said. “We would be very supportive of putting something like that in where we want to preserve the nature of collegiate athletes and the process and the university’s character as well.”

LaMarca didn’t outline businesses that could be off-limits, and state colleges and universities haven’t taken an official stance on the proposal. But Rep. Randy Fine, a Palm Bay Republican who opposed the proposal, rattled off a number of controversial businesses and suggested the state have more oversight of athletes’ potential sponsorships.

 “It concerns me that the bill has made it to this point without anyone saying, ‘You know what, it might be a bad idea to have a Las Vegas casino that actually takes wagers on college basketball games to be able to sponsor a student.’” Fine said. “That might be a bad idea. Or a cigarette company or an alcohol company or some of the other ones that I’ve listed. I’m shocked that we’re at this point and that issue has not been resolved.”

Fine also questioned the impact on team morale if some athletes were able to make more money than others.

“I understand the notion that students are creating a whole lot of value for universities,” Fine said. “But I want to balance that with the team mentality. If a student wants to get sponsorship for name, image and likeness and wants to effectively put it in a bucket that is managed by the university for equal distribution to all of the members of the team, so the team rises or falls as a team — which is what college sports is all about — that is something that would be, to me, a middle ground that I could support.”

The House proposal seeks to establish a “bill of rights” for college athletes that would allow them to earn compensation for their “name, image, likeness or persona.”

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