NIL can be a positive force in college athletics
By Bryan Finck on
Doing a simple search for “Name, Image, and Likeness” or simply “NIL” can lead you down a path of negative reactions and articles predicting doom for college sports.
Many critics of NIL rights miss the legitimately positive aspects, ranging from charitable donations to real-world business knowledge being gained by student-athletes.
Here are just five of the great things critics don’t mention about NIL.
1. Charities are benefitting from NIL campaigns and donations from athletes
Everywhere you look, athletes are announcing NIL deals designed specifically to benefit charities that are important to them.
Even when deal revenue isn’t going entirely to a charity, many student-athletes are announcing that they will donate some of their NIL earnings to charities that desperately need those funds.
These charities are also benefitting from the increased visibility brought about by the media attention and social media mentions, with fans making donations in many cases.
Be sure to check out the recent article highlighting some of the many examples of charities that are benefitting from NIL campaigns and the athletes involved with them.
2. NIL does away with “impermissible benefits” penalties from previous NCAA policies
Before NIL rights were made into law, the NCAA was often seen as being out of touch with its stated mission of supporting the welfare of student-athletes at its member schools.
This stemmed in large part from so-called “violations”, many for ridiculous reasons, that often cost the athletes money and eligibility to play the sports they loved.
For instance, the NCAA used to regard anything more than three daily meals for athletes as a violation.
Basketball star Shabazz Napier famously stated that he and his teammates went to bed hungry some nights because coaches couldn’t give them more food.
A college golfer was once required to pay back $20 to her school because she used a water hose on campus to wash her car, one that wasn’t available to regular students.
Most of these “violations” were self-reported to the NCAA by the schools due to a culture of fear that the governing body would find out on their own and levy harsh penalties.
This took school staff away from supporting the athletes and their goal of earning a degree.
Finally, one of the highest-profile cases was star basketball player Enes Kanter, who was ruled permanently ineligible for college play after receiving money as a teenager to play on a Turkish pro league team. Kanter was forced to skip college and later turned pro.
None of these supposed violations would earn even a second glance in today’s NIL era, which cannot be seen as anything but a positive step for college athletes.
3. NIL makes athletes equal with every other student on campus
Until the NIL era dawned, the ability for students to earn money from their skills and business acumen was reserved for non-athletes only.
Any regular student can generate income as they see fit, but due to the restrictions put in place by the NCAA, student-athletes were not allowed to do the same.
One of the most famous cases and one many people say helped push the NIL issue to the forefront of the national conscience, was that of UCF placekicker Donald de la Haye.
The kicker played for UCF in the 2015-2016 season. In 2017 it was discovered by the NCAA that he ran a YouTube channel that generated income for him.
The NCAA forced him to choose between keeping his channel or keeping his scholarship and eligibility to play sports. De la Haye chose to keep his channel and left the school.
The case became a lightning rod for criticism of the NCAA, and helped lead to the advent of NIL rights.
4. NIL creates equity between smaller and larger schools
It has been proven many times that the size or reputation of an athlete’s school does not guarantee or restrict opportunities for NIL success.
The first NIL deal was signed by an athlete at an HBC school. Fresno State’s basketball star Cavinder twins signed NIL deals with multiple national brands in the first few weeks.
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Neither of these are nationally-known schools or those regarded as “blueblood” universities, yet athletes from those and many other smaller schools have had success with NIL opportunities.
In the era of social media, a student-athlete’s profile and followership are much more important to businesses than is the location or size of their school.
Individuals who have put in the work to build a large, passionate, engaged, and organic following on any of the social media platforms stand an excellent chance of gaining outsized attention from companies looking to make marketing gold.
Schools in typical “college town” locations may even have more relative NIL success, as marketing is often a hyper-local endeavor. Making deals with multiple smaller businesses may be even more lucrative than having one deal with a national brand.
5. NIL allows athletes to build business acumen and real-world experience
It is a widely quoted statistic that, of the nearly half-million athletes who compete in NCAA athletics, more than 98% will not go on to have professional on-field careers.
Those athletes often could not participate in activities that gave them entrepreneurial opportunities and real-world experience they can now garner under NIL rules.
Many student-athletes participating in NIL deals are learning real-world skills like time management, financial skills, tax awareness, and more.
They are responsible for marketing, tracking their finances, and performing the activities of the deals themselves.
Oregon basketball star Sedona Prince has detailed some of the tasks she now has to undertake as part of her NIL deals and likens it to running her own business.
Entrepreneurship in the US grew at an astounding rate in 2021, and student-athletes gaining that kind of experience through NIL can be seen as hugely beneficial for their futures.