What is NIL and what does it mean for student athletes?

“NIL” has become THE hot acronym in college sports. It stands for “name, image, and likeness”, and describes rights that have now been recognized in Ohio through Executive Order 2021-10d, signed by Governor DeWine on June 28th of this year. The Order went into effect on July 1st. Simply put, Governor DeWine’s action now allows college student-athletes in Ohio to be compensated for their names, images, and likenesses.

For much of collegiate sports history, schools could only compensate students for their athletic with academic scholarships and nothing more. It wasn’t until 2014 that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) granted permission to member athletic conferences to give scholarships that cover the cost of attendance in full.

In June of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court altered college sports forever with a “game changing” ruling. In its unanimous NCAA v. Alston decision, it ruled that the NCAA’s cap on academic benefits violated federal anti-trust laws. Regarding NIL rights, Justice Kavanaugh stated in his concurring opinion that if other NCAA limitations on student-athlete benefits were challenged in a court of law, those too would likely be ruled to be in violation of anti-trust laws.

It was after the Alston ruling that the states got into the act, passing legislation or issuing executive orders to clarify how each would handle these newly-recognized rights. Governor DeWine’s executive order did just that. It does contain limitations. Student-athletes may not enter into contracts with companies engaged in certain businesses: marijuana, nicotine products, alcohol, gambling, adult entertainment, and controlled substances. Further, student-athletes may not have their sponsors’ logos presented during team activities or activities that may conflict with school functions.

When entering into an NIL contract, the student-athlete must disclose the contract to the school and before it becomes effective, the school may determine that it conflicts with the school’s policies or relevant team rules or policies. If the school makes such a determination, the student-athlete has the opportunity to renegotiate the contract to eliminate the conflict. It is important to note that schools cannot claim that any NIL money that the student-athlete receives is part of his or her academic-athletic scholarship.

There are just over 490,000 student-athletes in the United States. Many are now taking advantage of their new status and negotiating sponsorship deals. Social media platforms, especially Tik Tok, are providing access to advertisers that want these new faces to create self-aware ads and skits. Student-athletes have created clothing lines, hosted sponsored podcasts, and done meet-and-greets. It truly is the “Wild West” for this new phase of endorsements.

Albeit Weiker is able to assist college student-athletes with NIL opportunities. For more information, please contact us at 614-745-2001.