1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Marco Rubio leads Senate effort to compensate college athletes

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said in an interview this week that he supports college athletes getting paid, the latest high-profile lawmaker to break from the NCAA.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a news conference about the Zika virus, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016 in Doral, Fla.The CDC has advised pregnant women to avoid travel to the Miami neighborhood of Wynwood where mosquitoes are apparently transmitting Zika directly to humans. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Published Nov. 9
Updated Nov. 9

Florida’s football-crazed U.S. senator is drawing up plans to create a national standard for compensating college athletes for their names, images and likenesses weeks after California passed legislation and a similar bill in the Florida Legislature received the backing of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said in an interview this week that he supports college athletes getting paid, the latest high-profile lawmaker to advocate for an overhaul of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, a governing body for college sports that has long prevented athletes from making money from their athletic achievements.

Rubio said he met with Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney and Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy to discuss the issue this week, after multiple states, including Florida, have proposed fixes of their own. Murphy and Romney have been outspoken against the NCAA with Murphy producing a series of reports regarding athlete compensation and Romney last month warning the NCAA that Congress is prepared to act if it doesn’t make changes on its own.

“From my perspective, it’s just having a standard across the country. And 50 individual state laws would make it a chaotic mess and endanger college athletics,” Rubio said. “I think college athletes, particularly in the sports that are generating a lot of revenue, should have the ability to do what any American can do and that is profit off of their work, their image, their likeness and so forth. How we do that in a way that doesn’t destroy college athletics is something that we have to figure out, what the federal role is.”

Rubio doesn’t know what a potential bill would look like since discussions are just beginning.

“We’re starting the work,” Rubio said. “We don’t have easy answers. It’s a complicated issue.“

Rubio is one of three U.S. senators who played college football on scholarship. He played a year at now-defunct Tarkio College — a Missouri college that was affiliated with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics instead of the NCAA — before transferring to the University of Florida.

Rubio’s office said Ohio Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who played college football at Division I Ohio State University before embarking on an NFL career, is leading efforts on the issue in the House of Representatives.

An NCAA spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Rubio’s efforts.

Florida state Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami, who authored a bill in the Florida Legislature to allow college athletes to make money from their names, images and likenesses, said he welcomes interest from Washington.

“The fact that Republicans and Democrats are coming together to say something’s wrong says a lot,” McGhee said. “One of the ideas that is really true at this moment is a college student who is there on an arts scholarship can sell his or her painting and reap those benefits without risking a scholarship. But a student athlete who wants to monetize their YouTube page risks being removed from the scholarship program because they want to participate in the free market.”

McGhee said he doesn’t think individual states that are considering bills to allow college athletes to profit are considering bills that are substantially different from one another. He said the California law that passed in September is essentially the same as the bill in Florida that recently won the endorsement of DeSantis, a former college baseball player at Yale University.

But state-level laws that are implemented at different times could cause confusion for athletes and their families, and Rubio called the idea of 50 different state laws “chaos” in a tweet last week.

“NCAA is an unaccountable multi-billion dollar monopoly,” Rubio tweeted. “50 different state laws on compensation for athletes would be chaos. Working on a bi-partisan proposal with Chris Murphy and Anthony Gonzalez that’s fair to athletes and won’t kill college sports.”

NCAA leaders last week voted unanimously to start the process of modifying that organization’s rule to allow college athletes to profit “in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.” But their plan, which isn’t finalized, would not follow the proposals in Florida or California. Instead, the NCAA would regulate ways athletes can make money like endorsement deals, as opposed to a free market.

Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., introduced a bill earlier this year that would amend the definition of a qualified amateur sports organization in the tax code to remove the restriction on student-athletes being compensated for use of their names, images and likenesses.

“Signing on with a university, if you’re a student-athlete, should not be [a] moratorium on your rights as an individual,” Walker, a former college athlete, said in a statement. “This is the time and the moment to be able to push back and defend the rights of these young adults.”

Walker is hoping for a vote on his bill early next year.


  1. Gov. Ron DeSantis greets local officials at Dunedin High School on Oct. 7, 2019, part of a swing around the state to announce his plan to boost starting teacher pay in Florida to $47,500. He revealed a related teacher bonus plan on Nov. 14 in Vero Beach. MEGAN REEVES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The new plan would replace the controversial Best and Brightest model that DeSantis had called confusing.
  2. Florida Senator Darryl Rouson on the floor of the Florida Senate. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
    His office said he had been considering filing the bill, but a Times/Herald investigation published Wednesday prompted them to move more quickly.
  3. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., questions FBI Director Christopher Wray during a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. Also pictured is Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., left. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) ANDREW HARNIK  |  AP
    Scott is co-sponsoring a bill to overturn a 1950s Supreme Court ruling.
  4. Tiffany Carr — shown during a 2004 visit to a Hollywood nail salon, where she spoke on domestic violence — was paid $761,560 annual salary as head of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. MIAMI HERALD  |  [Bob Eighmie Miami Herald file photo]
    Former state Sen. Denise Grimsley, a friend of Carr’s, is stepping in as interim president and CEO of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
  5. In this 2017 photo, then-Gov. Rick Scott, left, speaks with then-Florida Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran in Tampa. The two were instrumental in refusing to expand Medicaid in Florida. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
    According to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Florida likely suffered the second-highest total of deaths in that time period — 2,776 — attributed to not expanding Medicaid,...
  6. Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg delivers a Veterans Day address at a campaign event, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, in Rochester, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) ELISE AMENDOLA  |  AP
    State rep. Ben Diamond: Mayor Pete is ‘the type of leader that can really bring our country together’
  7. Former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and U.S. Rep. Val Demings have prominent roles in the impeachment of President Donald Trump. [AP Photos]
    Pam Bondi, Matt Gaetz, Val Demings and more will factor prominently in the coming weeks. Here’s how.
  8. Career Foreign Service officer George Kent, testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, during the first public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) ANDREW HARNIK  |  AP
    Kent was one of the most high-ranking career officials who had knowledge about elements of the alleged White House effort.
  9. President Donald Trump speaks at the Economic Club of New York at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) ANDREW HARNIK  |  AP
    The explanation gets complicated.
  10. Jomari DeLeon, is pictured at at Gadsden Correctional Facility in Quincy, Florida August 7, 2019. Jomari is three years into a 15-year sentence for drug trafficking. She sold 48 tablets of prescription tablets over two days to an undercover officer. JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |  Times
    Florida lawmakers agreed the state’s old drug sentencing laws went too far. But that means nothing to people serving time.