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Ron DeSantis endorses Florida bills allowing college athletes to make money

Having both Florida and California united on the issue could cause the NCAA “to reevaluate,” he said.

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his support Thursday for several bills that would allow students to profit off of their likenesses and images.

The bills, filed by Reps. Chip LaMarca, R-Lighthouse Point, and Kionne McGhee, D-Miami, in the House and Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Rockledge, in the Senate, mirror a bill signed into law in California last month.

DeSantis joked that while he doesn’t typically look to deep-blue California for policy inspiration on this issue, he said they were on “the right track” when the state passed a similar bill last month. He said he expects “issues” to arise and be debated in the course of the policy proposal, but that it’s the right thing to pursue because it’s about fairness.

“I’m confident those issues can be addressed in a way that will maintain college athletics as really special thing but also provide the ability for our student athletes to be able to benefit just like anybody else would be able to benefit,” DeSantis said.

RELATED: Does Tim Tebow know? Florida bill would allow college athletes to cash in

He noted that if Florida follows suit, having “powerhouse” states like Florida and California united on the issue will hopefully cause the NCAA “to reevaluate.”

Current NCAA bylaws prohibit any student from using “his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind.”

McGhee joined DeSantis to show the bills have bipartisan support.

“To the 470,000 student athletes across this nation: help is on its way,” McGhee said. He used the example of art students, who are allowed to sell their pieces to help support themselves through college, as a contrast to the financial constraints on athletes.

“We’re sick and tired of the hypocrisy within a classroom setting where young athletes are taught about capitalism and taught about the free market but are being told, on the other hand, they cannot participate because they have a gift,” he added.

As California’s bill was being debated, former University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow weighed in, arguing the proposals would change what’s “special” about college football compared with pro leagues.

RELATED: Do Florida coaches support a name, image and likeness bill?

“If I could support my team, support my college, support my university, that’s what it’s all about. But now we’re changing it from ‘us’ ... from being an alumni where I care, which makes college sports special, to then OK it’s not about ‘us,’ it’s not about ‘we.’ It’s just about ‘me,’” Tebow said on ESPN’s First Take in September.

Corey Simon, a former NFL player who was a star defensive tackle at Florida State University, joined the elected officials in Tallahassee Thursday to support the move.

DeSantis announces his support for the college athlete likeness bill with, to his left, Rep. Kionne McGhee, the Democratic House minority leader who filed one of the bills the governor endorsed. [ EMILY L. MAHONEY | Times/Herald ]

“It’s not a gift,” Simon said. “If I couldn’t play football, Florida State is not knocking at my door. The nine shoulder surgeries and the two knee surgeries that I had while I was here, that wasn’t Florida State. Florida State wasn’t laying on the table, it was me.”

Rob Wile reported from Miami and Emily L. Mahoney reported from Tallahassee.

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