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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Jun. 17, 2020 2 weeks ago

New bill could affect high school athletes

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A recent bill signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would go into effect July 1, 2021, and allow college athletes to be paid for name, image and likeness.
by: Troy Herring Sports Editor

The debate on whether college athletes should be paid has spanned decades, but now, Florida has just become the epicenter of the discussion.

During a press conference Friday, June 12, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he had signed a bill that would allow college athletes to be paid for their image, likeness and name starting in July 2021. 

Although California and Colorado both passed similar laws, Florida’s new law will go into effect 18 months earlier than either — making it the first state to allow for college athletes to be paid.

“We’re not talking about, you get a scholarship to Florida State and Miami and the universities are going to pay you to play — that’s not what we’re talking about,” DeSantis said. “But if you have a situation where you have some of the great athletes, particularly in sports like football and basketball, whose name, image, and likeness is being used to make millions and millions of dollars, and they don’t have the opportunity to get any of that, there’s something fundamentally unfair for that.”

The news was met with a variety of responses from local high school coaches.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” said Brian Rizo, head girls basketball coach at West Orange High. “I think it’s great, in a way, to get some of these kids money — especially those that come from different financial hardships. But at the same time, I think it takes a little bit away from the amateurism of the sport, and I think that can be heavily influenced and certain schools will have an advantage. I think there are pros and cons, so I’m kind of still processing that.”

Although the bill only applies to college athletes, it could change how athletics are done at the high school level, Rizo said. The bill sparks questions about recruiting, amateurism and more.

“It trickles down — I think it affects the different generations,” Rizo said. “Now you’re talking college and how it’ll affect the high school landscape. I think it changes the culture of everything, because there is more pressure now to get to college and be able to be in a position where you’re making money as a college athlete.”

“I think it’s great, in a way, to get some of these kids money — especially those that come from different financial hardships. But at the same time, I think it takes a little bit away from the amateurism of the sport.”

—Brian Rizo, head girls basketball coach at West Orange High

The recruiting process for athletes — especially those in the upper echelon — is full of distractions, and this could present even more issues, said Dr. Phillips head boys basketball coach Ben Witherspoon. 

Although Witherspoon — who has multiple players on his team who will be playing on the collegiate level — believes college players getting paid is great, he said there could be distractions for players who look to build up their social-media following and brand to attract future endorsements.

“The only drawback I can see is the increase in distractions for some kids when they’re at school — some kids focusing more on marketing themselves than working on their game, which could put some kids in jeopardy of having a scholarship the next year,” Witherspoon said. “It’s important that players are still putting the right amount of focus on their craft to have a spot in school.”

For Windermere High baseball head coach Eric Lassiter, the pros outweigh the cons.

In baseball, there are no full scholarships, and given the hectic schedule of a college athlete, it makes sense they get the chance to make money.

“They deserve to be able to not have to call their parents and ask for $50 to take their girlfriend on a nice dinner on your anniversary — I remember having to do those things,” he said. “When I played, it was like, ‘Hey Mom, I don’t have this money, but it’s our anniversary.’ … It’s not exactly the best-feeling thing you have to do when you’re a 20-year-old, because you cant have a job like everyone else in college.”

Despite the unknown, coaches — such as Legacy Charter head football coach Trent Hopper — will have to sit down with their players to discuss these things.

“I’m sure at some point, I’m going to have an athlete where this is part of the conversation, and I’m just curious as heck as to what that conversation looks like,” Hopper said. “It’s a good step toward equality, that’s for sure, though.”

Troy Herring is the sports editor at the West Orange Times and Windermere Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Mount Olive (BS '12) and the University of Alabama (MA '16)....

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