As of July 1, 2021, college athletes can finally make money thanks to new name, image, and likeness (NIL) legislation. 

From the very beginning, the state of Florida has pushed for these rights, making it clear that the new future is in the hands of the athletes.

Here are just five of the ways Florida is shaping this $1 billion industry.

1. Creating a blueprint for the rest of the country

While Florida wasn’t the first state to pass NIL legislation, it set the earliest date for making legislation into law. 

This pushed several other states to move their “go-live” dates up to July 1st, 2021 just to match the Sunshine State.

Headline reading, "Florida to Be 1st State with NIL Rights for NCAA Athletes to Profit Off Likeness."

Even California—the first state to pass NIL legislation—moved their date from September 1st to July 1st, in an effort to not be left behind. 

Florida’s NIL proponents also helped stave off a last-minute attempt to delay the implementation of their NIL law. Had it succeeded, it could have set off a nationwide delay. 

2. Producing and supporting leading NIL companies

Florida leaders like Representative Chip LaMarca, Commissioner Richard Corcoran, and Governor Ron DeSantis have been active in supporting athletes and NIL startups since the beginning.

LaMarca, who spearheaded the NIL legislation in Florida, appeared alongside Corcoran at a press conference to announce one of the first NIL deals—D'Eriq King officially becoming a co-founder of NIL deal-making platform Dreamfield.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, an early advocate of NIL, also showed his support by attending a launch event at The Wharf in Miami to celebrate the first day of college athletes being able to sign deals.

Quarter back D'Eriq King and Dreamfield's Neal Carter

The ongoing support and high-profile attention have helped companies like Orlando-based Dreamfield become one of the biggest names in the NIL space.

3. Helping shape the future of digital trading cards (NFTs)

Digital NFT (non-fungible tokens) trading cards have taken the world of sports collectibles by storm over the last few years.

In August 2021, Florida-based Dreamfield debuted one of the first college player NFTs for co-founder McKenzie Milton. 

McKenzie Milton digital trading card

As college athletes move on to pro careers, their college NFTs will act as pseudo rookie cards, the holy grail of card collecting.

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4. Pushing for the inclusion of female athletes

The author of Florida’s NIL legislation, State Representative Chip LaMarca, wanted to make sure female athletes would benefit from NIL.

LaMarca said at the time that his bill, “would actually capture one of the things that was important to me, women’s sports, and making sure that they had every opportunity to do NIL contracts”.

Shortly after NIL was enacted into law, the NHL Florida Panthers offered every female athlete at Florida Atlantic University an opportunity. 

Since the deal went live, nearly 100 female athletes from FAU have signed up.

Group of female FAU athletes at Florida Panthers game

5. Building a bridge between pro and college sports

The NHL’s Florida Panthers was the first professional sports franchise to sign a promotional deal with college athletes.

Their first move was to offer a deal to hometown hero, Miami Hurricanes quarterback D’Eriq King, to kick off their “FLA Athlete” influencer program.

Promotional banner featuring Florida Panthers and D'Eriq King

The team also went on to offer deals to every female athlete at FAU.

Where NIL is going from here

Signing marketing deals with college athletes is still a new concept, but the concept is gaining steam.

Major brands like Mercedes Benz have been early adopters and more big names are signaling their interest every week.

We're witnessing the start of a new era for college sports. For its part, the NIL space is projected to be a $1b industry and Florida is at the forefront.

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