College Athletes and NIL

What is NIL? This short acronym has popped up lately in news feeds in connection with the plight of the college athlete. NIL stands for name, image and likeness. In the last two years almost 20 states have passed laws that will allow athletes to earn money from third parties for the use of their “NIL.” Such compensation may include sponsorships, endorsements and payments by social media influencers.

The Fight for NIL Rights

These payments are currently banned by the amateurism rules promulgated by the NCAA. However, such rules were found by the Supreme Court yesterday to be a violation of the antitrust laws. But one must wonder if this is simply a case of a nail in search of a hammer. How many student athletes would have NIL with any value? The vast majority of student athletes are just that, students who happen to play a sport such as volleyball, crew, tennis or baseball. Many of them play for schools that you have never heard of.

The Value of NIL Rights

And just because the second string quarterback or the guard on the women’s basketball team now has the opportunity to sponsor products does not mean that his or her college is going to let them use its branding. It won’t. There have been a few athletes whose names have transcended their school’s own identity. Tim Tebow and “Johnny Football” leap to mind. But in most cases the athletes’ name will have little value without an SEC or Big X or Pac 12 school logo next to it, and that logo will be nowhere to be found.

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