The rules are changing rapidly for college athletes in the United States. For the first time, NCAA student-athletes can profit from their name, image, and likeness. As a college athlete, it’s essential to understand what this could mean for you and how to protect your rights.

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NIL Rights for College Athletes

The right of publicity refers to a person’s right to profit from their name, image, and likeness (NIL). For a student-athlete, NIL may include things such as:

  • Autographs
  • Wearing athletic or non-athletic branded clothing or accessories
  • Personal appearances
  • Promoting a product or service
  • Providing lessons, camps, or clinics
  • Fundraising

NIL applies to individual athletes only. Therefore, college athletes must be careful not to use their schools’ trademarked logos or names without permission.

Student-Athlete NIL Rights as of July 1, 2021

The NCAA changed student-athlete NIL rights on June 30, 2021, the day before several states had NIL rules set to take effect. Just days earlier, the United States Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision ending the cap on education-related benefits for NCAA athletes—thereby opening the door to other compensation.

The NCAA interim NIL policy that went into effect on July 1, 2021, is summarized as follows:

  • Applies to all NCAA Division I, Division II, and Division III athletes. However, each division must create its own NIL compensation plan consistent with guidelines and recommendations approved by the NCAA Board of Governors.
  • Permits states to enact restrictions on what student-athletes may promote and requires student-athletes to comply with state rules.
  • Provides individual colleges and universities with oversight of NIL deals and the right to object if an athlete’s NIL deal would conflict with an existing arrangement.
  • Prevents schools and conferences from helping athletes get NIL deals or using NIL deals to recruit or compensate athletes.

Where States Stand on NIL Agreements

The following states have NIL rules that went into effect or will go into effect during 2021: 

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Connecticut  
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas

Additionally, the following states have rules that will go into effect in 2022:

  • Arkansas
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • South Carolina 
  • Tennessee    

In 2023, the following states will join the states with NIL rules: 

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Maryland
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Oklahoma 

New Jersey will join the list in 2025, and at least four other states (Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, and Rhode Island) have legislation pending. 

This information is changing rapidly, and some states allow individual schools to follow NIL laws before the law goes into effect statewide. Accordingly, you should check to see what, if any, state rules apply to your situation.

The Advice of an Experienced Sports Law Attorney Is Essential

NIL rights for student-athletes are an emerging and rapidly changing area of law. The advice of an experienced sports law attorney can help you negotiate successful endorsement agreements while maintaining your NCAA eligibility.

Are You a Student-Athlete Seeking to Understand Your NIL Rights?

If you're an athlete seeking to understand your NIL rights, it is critical that you speak with an experienced sports attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call us directly at +1-207-747-5899 to schedule your initial 1 hour consultation. Our firm is devoted to the very specific practice of sports law and has represented athletes from all corners of the United States. We are dedicated advocates for clients. Don't hesitate. Contact us today.

Matthew Kaiser
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Matt is a leading sports attorney with experience in anti-doping and athletes' rights legal cases.
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