Florida lawmakers heard a story Friday morning that illustrates one of the thorniest issues facing high school sports: name, image and likeness (NIL).
A lacrosse equipment company offered an elite prep player a deal to work at clinics and serve as a brand ambassador. Could she take it while still remaining eligible to play for her high school team?
No, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) determined; the deal was a product of her athletic prowess and fame, so it would have gone against the spirit of amateurism. It would, however, have been allowed in the 30-plus states that permit high school players to make NIL deals.
FHSAA executive director Craig Damon shared that story during Friday’s presentation to the House’s education quality subcommittee. It was part of a discussion as lawmakers and the state’s governing body for high school sports consider changing rules to allow prep athletes to be paid for their name, image and likeness.
The FHSAA presented a draft of what that change might look like. Its proposal would let athletes do things like commercials, promotional activities and social media engagement — but only if they’re “provided by an FHSAA-approved organization.”
“The idea is to have an approval process for companies to protect our student-athletes as well as have educational standards for each student,” said Amanda Corral, the FHSAA’s assistant director of eligibility and compliance.
Players wouldn’t be allowed to use school logos in their name, image and likeness work. They also wouldn’t be allowed to promote them during school or FHSAA events. Schools and employees would be barred from brokering deals, and NIL could not be used for recruiting.
But are those guardrails enough?
Lawmakers and presenters expressed other concerns, even with these limits. Name, image and likeness deals have become a part of the college recruiting and retention process, even if that’s against the rules. Damon said that “has caused some pause within our office.”
How confident is Damon that the FHSAA could manage the situation fully?
“On a scale of 0-10, 10 being the highest, probably a 0,” Damon said.
The FHSAA is surveying the public on the issue, and its initial results show widespread disapproval of allowing high schoolers to make those deals. That includes 80% of athletic directors/administrators, 73% of coaches and 50.1% of parents, students and other community members.
Ryan Harrison Jr. — a multisport athlete from Wildwood — said he supports name, image and likeness deals but is concerned about increased pressure on athletes and the effect it could have on team chemistry.
“While there is so much to gain, there is a lot to lose,” Harrison told the subcommittee.
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Though most high schoolers have little, if any, endorsement value, some elite players do. There were mixed opinions on whether Florida will lose that top talent to other states.
Mark Marsala had another concern. Marsala, the director of athletic operations for one of the state’s prep leagues, the Sunshine State Athletic Association, said club sports have already encroached in high school teams. What would happen if players on club teams can make name, image and likeness deals but athletes on school teams cannot?
He advocated for the same set of rules for both groups. And, like it or not, these rules must be addressed soon.
“To date, we haven’t had any issues with NIL,” Marsala said. “But as you can hear and as you see, it’s coming.”