Written by: Sports

Federal and State NIL Laws: a Potential Game-Changer for College Athletes

In June of 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that would allow student-athletes to capitalize on their name, image, and likeness (“NIL,” for short).

Senate Bill 646, which goes into effect on July 1, 2021, makes it legal in Florida for student-athletes to earn compensation during the course of their college careers without jeopardizing their NCAA eligibility. In fact, the law prohibits schools from revoking an athlete’s scholarship, or reducing the amount of financial aid a player receives from the school during the course of their college playing days, should the athlete decide to capitalize on the NIL legislation.

Andrew Beaulieu

What does this mean for the current student athlete? For the time being, it’s a bit murky. Although the NCAA outlined a plan for athletes to earn compensation for use of their NIL, those plans were delayed this past January. And even though Congress introduced a bill last month that would make NIL compensation federal law, one of the sponsors of that bill believes that any action taken on the federal legislation would have to wait at least six months.

So what does this mean moving forward? Right now, a student-athlete is unable to earn any income based on their NIL. But if the legislation becomes effective – and the NCAA moves forward with a plan to adopt NIL rules – there would be three main ways a student could earn money during the course of his or her college athletic career:

  • Personal Appearances. The NIL legislation would allow a player to charge fees and accept payment for signing his or her autograph at an organized event.
  • Product Endorsements. If a player wishes to endorse a certain product, a business could pay the athlete money to appear in commercials and other media. 
  • Social Media. Social media accounts for athletes are huge. Trevor Lawrence, who won a national championship with Clemson University in 2018 and is widely expected to be the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft in April, currently has 740,000 Instagram followers. Businesses will view such a large audience as an attractive way to get their products in front of those who follow Lawrence – and other athletes like him – which could provide a lucrative opportunity for a popular player if the NIL legislation passes.

There would obviously be certain limitations placed on an athlete’s ability to earn. For example, preliminary discussions with the NCAA’s guidelines would prevent a student-athlete from displaying school logos or conference affiliations during any endorsement activity. Additionally, schools and universities would be prohibited from paying student-athletes NIL compensation, which would almost certainly be considered an illicit recruiting tactic.

It also remains to be seen whether an athlete could endorse a product that competes with any brand licensing agreement the athlete’s school already has in place. The University of Miami Hurricanes signed a 12-year merchandising deal with Adidas back in 2015. If a Hurricane player wanted to endorse a competing product – say, Nike or Under Armour – future NCAA guidelines might try to stop it.

Still, the tide is turning, as is public opinion on the issue. Soon enough, student-athletes will be able to capitalize on their athletic popularity in order to earn money during their college careers beyond what they receive in financial aid from the school. 

AXS Law Group has a committed team of lawyers ready and able to assist in navigating the tricky world of NIL legislation as it currently stands. Keep checking back here for more articles and posts on the status of the various forms of NIL legislation, what it means for you as a college athlete, and how we might be able to help.

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Tags: , , Last modified: April 7, 2021