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FHSAA approves athlete name-image-likeness pay rules

News Service of Florida
/
WGCU

The Florida High School Athletic Association is slated Tuesday to consider allowing student athletes to earn money through endorsement deals under what is known as a name, image and likeness, or NIL, policy.

The Florida High School Athletic Association on Tuesday opened the door for student-athletes to earn money from business agreements such as endorsement deals, with the organization’s president calling the move a “good starting point.”

The FHSAA’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve a seismic change in the organization’s bylaws to allow athletes to be compensated for their name, image and likeness, or NIL. The changes will be in effect for the upcoming school year.

Under the change, student-athletes and their parents or guardians would be required to “negotiate any NIL activities independent of their school, school district, or the FHSAA.” The board also agreed to allow high-school athletes to hire agents to assist them in navigating business deals — reversing course on a longstanding prohibition.

The revamped bylaws now allow for the hiring of “registered” agents only for the “purpose of advising on NIL related” matters.

The policy that was approved Tuesday has been in the works since February, and the board held multiple meetings to float language for the new rules.

Monica Colucci, a Miami-Dade County school-board member who is president of the FHSAA Board of Directors, said the change will bring Florida into “new territory.”

“So there are going to be hesitations, we are going to feel nervous. But I do really believe that this is going to put us on par with the rest of the country. We are going to have some things that we have to face as a board. And we will do so. Because I really believe we are very capable and we are going to do the right thing for students, always. That is our top priority,” Colucci said during Tuesday’s meeting in Gainesville.

As of October, 30 states and the District of Columbia allow high-school athletes to “receive NIL compensation,” according to the revamped bylaws approved Tuesday.

The updated regulations define “permissible activities” under the new NIL policy to include, but not be limited to, commercial endorsements, promotional activities, social media presence, and product or service advertisements.

“As the governing board, we can, as situations arise, we can tweak the bylaw. We can go back to it. We can revisit it as many times as we need to to make the modifications. But I do believe, as president of this organization, this is a very good starting point for us to move forward with.”
Monica Colucci, president of the FHSAA Board of Directors

The new NIL rules also include some restrictions.

For example, student-athletes will be prohibited from using their school’s logo, uniform or equipment in any NIL deals unless they are given written permission from the school, district or FHSAA.

Student-athletes also are banned from endorsing certain products, such as alcohol, tobacco, vaping, gambling, weapons, cannabis products and prescription drugs.

The FHSAA board also approved as part of the NIL rules a prohibition on endorsements related to “political or social activism.”

Another prohibition that has sparked debate within the FHSAA board is the barring of what are known as NIL “collectives” from being allowed under the policy. Collectives are funding organizations through which student-athlete compensation frequently is funneled.

Kimberly Richey, a senior chancellor with the Florida Department of Education who also is on the FHSAA board, has pushed to have the bylaws include a ban on collectives.

“I think what we’re doing is, we’re saying there cannot be any groups out there that exist to collect funds from donors to facilitate NIL deals for student athletes. That's what a collective is. If you exist solely for that purpose, you cannot operate in Florida,” Richey said during Tuesday’s meeting.

As the new FHSAA bylaw changes stand to potentially change the landscape of school athletics, an introductory part of the policy notes that schools can educate student-athletes about the potential “drawbacks” of engaging in NIL deals.

“The FHSAA supports NIL education, which prepares student-athletes to make informed decisions. 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 version of the bylaw changes approved by the board Tuesday said.

The revamped bylaws also state that student-athletes and their families “are encouraged to seek legal counsel and tax advice when considering NIL activity.”

Tuesday’s action comes several years after a similar change that has allowed collegiate-level athletes to make a profit. An initial NIL law related to colleges and universities went into effect in Florida in July 2021. Last year, Gov. Ron DeSantis approved a subsequent measure that essentially expanded the state’s law to allow universities to become more involved in the NIL process.

Colucci reminded the FHSAA board on Tuesday that the high-school sports officials also can come back to the table to make changes to its NIL policy in the future.

“As the governing board, we can, as situations arise, we can tweak the bylaw. We can go back to it. We can revisit it as many times as we need to to make the modifications. But I do believe, as president of this organization, this is a very good starting point for us to move forward with,” Colucci said.

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