FHSAA considers NIL compensation for Florida student-athletes

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By Ryan Dailey ©2024 The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — The governing body that oversees high-school athletics in Florida could soon approve a proposal that would lead to high-school athletes getting paid through business agreements such as endorsement deals.

The Florida High School Athletic Association held a discussion Tuesday about a potential change to the organization’s bylaws that would allow student-athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness under what is commonly known as an NIL policy. The 13-member board, which includes eight members appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in August, is slated to vote on the proposal during a June 4 meeting.

The proposal would overhaul a part of the FHSAA’s bylaws that govern “amateurism” in athletics. Schools and districts would have to remain on the sidelines in the deals, according to the plan.

“Student-athletes and their parents/guardians will be required to negotiate any NIL activities independent of their school, school district, or the FHSAA (Florida High School Athletic Association),” the proposal says.

Business deals allowed under the policy would include, but not be limited to, commercial endorsements, promotional activities, social media presence, and product or service advertisements.

The potential change at the high school level follows a seismic shift in collegiate sports over the past several years that allows college athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness. An initial NIL law went into effect in Florida in July 2021, and last year DeSantis approved changes that essentially expanded the law to allow universities to become more involved in the process.

Under Florida’s collegiate NIL law, colleges and universities are required to offer financial literacy workshops for student-athletes before they graduate. The high-school NIL policy discussed Thursday also seeks to promote financial education for athletes.

“By providing student-athletes with knowledge about potential legal and financial drawbacks associated with NIL activities, high schools can contribute to the overall welfare of their student-athletes,” the proposal says. “The FHSAA stands ready to help its student-athletes succeed in this new sports and business landscape.”

Board members did not decide during Tuesday’s discussion how high-school financial education would be addressed or whether districts would be responsible for providing it.

Tuesday’s discussion also touched off a debate about whether student-athletes should be allowed to hire agents to assist them in navigating NIL deals.

A draft of the proposal posted on the FHSAA’s website prior to Tuesday’s meeting included an existing rule that prohibits high-school athletes from hiring agents “to manage his/her athletic” career.

Part of the policy also says that student-athletes and their families are “encouraged to seek legal counsel and tax advice when considering NIL activity.”

Paul Selvidio, a member of the FHSAA board who also is the chief financial officer for Community School of Naples, argued that agents could be experts in NIL issues that would be a help to student-athletes.

“I think we have to be careful there, if we’re asking people to get advice on their NIL opportunities, this seems to be a gray area that needs further clarification,” Selvidio said.

Selvidio contended that agents would be an important part of educating athletes and families.

“I certainly know what an agent is, but an agent does a lot of different things. Which would include, I’d imagine, once NIL gets adopted here, they’ll be the local NIL experts,” Selvidio added.

Members of the board agreed to a change in the proposed policy that would ease the prohibition against hiring agents. The revised plan would restrict the hiring of agents “for all other activities other than advising on NIL-related matters.”

High school athletes also would face various other restrictions when negotiating endorsement deals.

For example, student-athletes would not be allowed to use their school’s logos, mascots or uniforms when promoting businesses or products “unless granted authorization by prior written consent from the school, district or (Florida High School Athletic) Association, respectively,” according to the proposal.

Athletes looking to cash in from NIL deals also would be prohibited from endorsing certain products and services. Alcohol, tobacco, vaping, gambling, cannabis, prescription drugs and weapons are among the products and services that are not allowed under the proposal.

The proposal also would prohibit NIL business agreements from being used to recruit student-athletes.

“NIL activities shall not be used to pressure, urge, or entice a student-athlete to attend a school for the purpose of participating in interscholastic athletics. The NIL agreement shall not be used as a guise for athletic recruiting,” the proposal says, in part.

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