July 1st, a day is traditionally known for the opening of NBA free agency, will now be remembered as the day that NCAA college athletes will be to able profit off their name, image, and likeness (NIL). On Wednesday, June 30, 2021, NCAA President Mark Emmert announced the NCAA has pivoted from its prolonged stance and decided “to officially suspend the organization’s rules prohibiting athletes from selling the rights to their names, images, and likenesses.” Starting Thursday, July 1, 2021, every college athlete will be able to make money through endorsements and other business ventures. The NCAA in effect has finally recognized that many states are enacting legislation that confers rights on college athletes, and these new rules will be a placeholder while the NCAA continues to work with Congress on a more permanent solution. The release by the NCAA further states, “student-athletes should report NIL activities consistent with state law or school and conference requirements to their school.”
Overall, the news is great for college athletes, but some may be wondering, “Now what?” The first things that may come to mind are whether the athlete will be able to sell jerseys, sign memorabilia, start their own businesses, etc. The answer under these new rules would almost certainly be yes, but not without complex legal issues as there will continue to be uncertainty until Federal federal legislation is fully adopted. For example, schools in Florida are unable to assist college athletes in obtaining compensation, including providing opportunities for them to do so. However, This would seem to conflict with the NCAA press release which states that schools themselves can be a resource for questions about engaging in NIL activities.
During this period of uncertainty, schools are likely to be hesitant on providing guidance due to concerns of impropriety and Title IX considerations. However, athletes will be able to hire their own “professional services provider.” This is where retaining legal representation will allow college athlete to fully maximize their rights while also being transparent with their school. NIL law is changing every day and an athlete may be eager to sign endorsement deals, but it is important that these athletes still understand the activities that may jeopardize their eligibility. Additionally, certain licensing and endorsement contracts may contain exclusivity clauses, which could still limit the athlete’s ability to market their NIL without sustaining legal consequences. For most athletes, the time is now to take full advantage of their NILs. While the NCAA continues to work with Congress, our law firm’s NIL lawyers will guide college athletes on capitalizing on their marketability, while the athlete is able to continue focusing on school and their sport.
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