Florida Representative Kionee McGhee Wants College Athletes To Get Paid. Should They?

Oct 1, 2019

House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee is pushing for a bill (HB 251) that would allow college athletes at public and private universities to sign endorsement deals with major companies. Under current rules, these deals are prohibited. 

On Monday, California's Governor Gavin Newsom signed a similar bill called the Fair Pay to Play Act. College athletes currently do not get paid. They’re considered amateurs and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has rules prohibiting athletes from making money off of their likeness and image. 

Shortly after California signed their bill the NCAA issued a statement: "As more states consider their own specific legislation related to this topic, it is clear that a patchwork of different laws from different states will make unattainable the goal of providing a fair and level playing field for 1,100 campuses and nearly half a million student-athletes nationwide." 

If passed, McGhee's proposed bill would go into effect July 1, 2020. McGhee represents Florida's 117th District, which includes central Miami-Dade County, stretching from Richmond Heights to Florida City. He talked to host Luis Hernandez on Sundial about how this bill puts the interest of college students first. 

This interview has been edited lightly for clarity.

WLRN: What exactly will the bill do?

MCGHEE: Basically bring about fairness. Luis, what we're seeing is an antiquated system that's found within the NCAA. We're seeing everyone has an opportunity to participate in our capitalist society, but for some reason the free market abilities are not afforded to these student-athletes who are actually working and playing sports and bringing the resources into the schools.

Why is this issue important to you?

Number one, it's contrary to what we truly believe. We really believe that if the free market is okay for everyone else it should be allowed for these individuals here. The majority of the students we're talking about don't have the resources at home where they can call a family member and receive financial support to get to the next level. And also it's about equity here.

Former University of Florida football player Tim Tebow now works for ESPN. On one of the programs he said he thinks this is a bad idea:

I feel like I have a little credibility and knowledge about this because when I was at the University of Florida my jersey was one of the top-selling jerseys around the world. And I didn't make a dollar from it, nor did I want to. I knew going to Florida, my dream school, where I wanted to go, the passion for it and if I could support my team, support my college, support my university that's what it's all about.

Representative McGhee, How do you respond?

I'm not saying, 'hey, let's pay every college student out there who participates in sports.' No, that's not what we're saying. We're simply saying the system, as it currently sits, does not represent what the people want. And the people are simply saying if you're going to use money, if you're going to use my images, if you're going to use my likeness, at least allow me the opportunity to negotiate that so that I can participate in this. What we call the supply and demand market - a free market.

We’d like to hear from you: Do you believe college athletes should be able to make money off their name or likeness? Email us at sundial@wlrnnews.org