College Athletes Can Now Profit Off of Their Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL)
Somewhere in the world today, a kid is shooting a jump shot while yelling out "Kobe" or throwing a football with dreams of being the next Tom Brady. People play sports for different reasons, ranging from staying in shape to hopes of playing in the pros. There are over 8 million students who play sports during their high school years and more than 460,000 who play an organized sport during college. Those who go on the play during college play under the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the governing body of all major college sports that supports and broadcasts football, baseball, basketball, and soccer, to name a few.
Tickets for high-profile college sport programs, like LSU and Alabama's football, can range from $100s of dollars to $1000s of dollars on the resale market for high-demand games.
Collegiate athletes help bring in millions of dollars to their universities, yet in the past have not been allowed to personally profit in any way. The NCAA has faced many instances of controversy and backlash regarding compensating the athletes that are generating them a high revenue stream. In 2019 alone, the NCAA's annual revenue accumulated more than $1.1 billion. Despite earning over a billion dollars, the NCAA continued to be reluctant to pay college athletes. Their reasoning for not compensating has been athletes' access to free education. However, most college athletes have a training schedule equivalent to a full-time job. Also, not all student-athletes receive a scholarship, nor does that scholarship cover everyday expenses.
Richard Sherman, an NFL free-agent cornerback, and former college athlete highlighted this long-standing issue in a 2015 interview. He stated, "Show me how you're going to get all your work done when after you get out at 7:30 or so, you've got a test the next day, you're dead tired from practice, and you still have to study just as hard as everybody else every day and get all the same work done." The student-athlete experience highlighted by Sherman demonstrates that although the NCAA is offering college athletes free or partially free education, the extensive hours of practice are prohibiting them from taking full advantage of their educational benefits.
After many years of consistent complaints from current and former student-athletes and spectators of college sports who have been advocating for college athletes to get paid, a change finally happened. On July 1, 2021, a new federal bill was passed, stating that college athletes could now receive compensation for their name, image, and likeness (NIL). Despite the continued reluctance from the NCAA, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of college athletes and will allow them to profit off of their NIL. This step in the right direction benefits many, if not all, college athletes, as they can use the money to support themselves and their families financially. In an article by the NY Times, the Supreme Court voted unanimously on this matter. It stated, "NCAA could not bar relatively modest payments to student-athletes," meaning student-athletes are eligible to receive payments for endorsements, sponsors, and paid promotions as long as the payments are not ludicrous.
Athletes can now monetize themselves in multiple different ways. With a high social media following, some athletes are using their respective platforms to promote their endorsements. Other athletes have created a line of merchandise to sell online to capitalize on their NIL.
Though the new rules established have only been in effect for no more than two weeks, here are some of the most famous names in college sports that have already inked a deal with a major corporation.
Hercy Miller, the son of rapper Master P, has signed a 4-year contract with the app Web Apps America worth $2 million. As the NIL bill just recently passed, this is one of the biggest deals offered to a college student to date.
Hanna and Haley Cavinder are college athletes for Fresno State’s Women’s Basketball Team. On Wednesday, they signed an endorsement deal with the telecommunications provider Boost Mobile. Their value revolves around them becoming spokespeople for the company and promoting its products throughout the year.
Olivia Dunne is a gymnast for Louisiana State University and has over one million followers on Instagram and nearly four million on TikTok. Due to her extensive social media following, many companies are keen on signing her and using her NIL to increase their exposure. Though she has not yet publicly announced signing an endorsement deal, she hinted one might be imminent as her gymnastic highlights were being played in Times Square.
The NIL bill will heavily impact college athletes, as they can now generate income without penalty. According to the National College Players Association, 86% of college athletes come from families living below the poverty line. With the new bill passed, athletes can now profit from their NIL to build wealth, overcome generational poverty, or help them become financially stable throughout their college years, regardless if they make it to the professional level or not.