In July, the NCAA cleared student-athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness. While the new NIL policy does not allow the NCAA, member schools or their employees to pay student-athletes, they can hire agents to pursue endorsements and sponsorships to capitalize financially.
Student-athletes can now generate income from endorsement deals and ventures like playing video games with fans, signing autographs and booking speaking engagements.
Since the sports careers of many student athletes end at the collegiate level, it is crucial that they have the opportunity to monetize their brand while they are at the top of their game.
While the changes have largely benefited star athletes who play high-revenue sports like football and men’s basketball, other athletes have positioned themselves for significant financial gain due to their social media influence.
A study from Temple University conducted in February of this year found that women and athletes from less popular sports would have about the same earning power as those playing football and men’s basketball
For example, it’s reported that LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne has the most combined social media followers of any collegiate athlete, with over 5 million, and is estimated to have turned that following into multi-million dollar brand deals.
And other women athletes, who play sports like volleyball, softball and basketball have signed partnership deals as well.
Women, especially, being able to tap into this earning power while in college is significant, because they don’t have the same professional opportunities as men in sports.
NIL policy has also benefited standout athletes who’ve decided to take their talents to underfunded and overlooked schools, like Historically Black Colleges and Universities, proving that they don’t have to go to big-time programs to see big-time money.
Tennessee State basketball player Hercy Miller reportedly signed a four-year brand ambassador deal with a tech company worth $2 million. And football players from schools like Alabama A&M, Johnson C. Smith, Norfolk State and Jackson State have also reaped the benefits of NIL legislation.
Like women, it’s important for black athletes to take advantage of opportunities to increase their incomes while still playing. Having financial stability during and after their athletic careers is substantial because many of them come from underprivileged backgrounds.
Furthermore, for athletes who aren’t star players or who don’t have a huge social media following, there’s still money to be made using the talents and skills they have outside of their sport, like in music, art, writing and cooking.
Nevertheless, now that every athlete has a fair playing field to make money, it’s important that they’re provided with tools and resources to manage their money and to transition into their professional careers post-sports, which will be the focus of my next piece.
Update: Hercy Miller has left Tennessee State University and entered the transfer portal. According to the Tennessean, the transfer won’t impact his NIL deal.