DeSantis endorses effort that would allow Florida college athletes to earn money

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis is backing efforts by Florida lawmakers seeking to lift NCAA rules that prevent college athletes from signing endorsement deals and profiting from their athletic prowess.

DeSantis, who was captain of the Yale University baseball team while in college, joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers and former Florida State University football players Thursday to announce his support.

"I think the benefit for this would be some of the smaller communities that have student-athletes that are known locally," he said. "I think women's athletics has a great opportunity to benefit from this."

A proposal by House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee is modeled after one signed into law last month by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The NCAA had opposed the California law, which is the first of its kind, saying it would muddy the lines separating big-money professional sports and amateur college athletics.

New York and Minnesota are also considering similar changes.

The NCAA might have to reconsider its stance as a growing number of states consider similar measures.

Florida has several marquee sports programs, including those at the University of Florida, the University of Miami and Florida State University.

"We have got to create fairness for these athletes," said Corey Simon, a fomer FSU football player who joined DeSantis for Thursday's news conference. "We're not asking to be special. We're just asking to be treated fairly."

Lou Holtz -- a college football analyst and a former coach and player -- told Channel 9 the proposed change could be important for athletes popular enough to land endorsements.

"For Florida to pass it, I think it will be great for the athlete or two or three athletes per university in Florida, but it's not best for the games," he said.

Jonathan Vilma -- an ESPN analyst and a former professional and collegiate player -- said the proposed legislation would help student-athletes who compete in less popular sports make ends meet.

"It is progress, and it is a much-needed change for college football players and for the NCAA," he said.

Click here to read more sports stories, and watch Channel 9 Eyewitness News for live updates on this developing story.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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