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What’s the Score?

On July 1, 2021, the NCAA changed the rules, allowing college student-athletes to earn money related to their names, images, and likenesses, albeit with a host of restrictions and specifications in its guidance. In addition to the NCAA’s rules, several states have also enacted their own regulations that apply to the colleges and universities within their footprint, and it is expected that the federal government will enact its own legislation soon, possibly by the end of 2021. The rules and business implications for you are evolving quickly, and we are monitoring those changes to keep you up to speed.

Where Do We Play?

Many types of businesses are considering paying student-athletes to endorse their products and services in ways like this:

  • Social media influencing
  • TV/Radio commercials
  • Personal appearances

Is that all?

No. Some student-athletes are working on starting their own businesses, such as training/teaching camps, apparel lines, and other enterprises.

Don’t I have to be the star quarterback to make any money doing this?

No. To be sure, high-profile players in major revenue-producing sports may be in the most demand, but there are increasing opportunities for those who play non-revenue producing sports, especially in niche areas, and for student-athletes who maintain influential social media presences.

I’m a team player. Can my whole team make a deal?

Yes. Some businesses have already offered deals to everyone on a particular team, but there may be licensing issues related to your team, which we can help you navigate.

Why would I need a lawyer?

Even if everyone is acting in good faith, people in business deals sometimes disagree on what they’ve each agreed to do. Lawyers know how to write, review, and interpret contracts so their clients—you—understand exactly what they have agreed to do and how (and how much) they will be paid. If the contract isn’t what you agreed to, the lawyer can negotiate for you to get a deal that makes you comfortable.

You also should consider that, when the floodgates open to new business areas like this, sometimes there are sharks in the water. Lawyers can help you spot red flags and protect yourself.

What kind of problems can lawyers find in contracts?

  • Some companies may require you to post an unreasonable number of times on social media to get paid.
  • Contracts may require you not to work for any other kind of company, even those that don’t compete with your sponsor.
  • Contracts may limit what you can say (in person or on the Internet) about politics or social causes you care deeply about.
  • Contracts may contain terms that violate other agreements to which you are bound, such as NCAA regulations, university policies, other endorsement agreements or even requirements of professional sports leagues you hope to enter after college.

A famous alumnus of my university runs a prominent local business and is a booster of our team. Can I make a deal to endorse that company?

  • Probably, but we’d want to make sure your agreement meets certain NCAA and other requirements, including the rules imposed by your school.

Can I endorse anything?

  • While specific rules vary by state and university, many regulations prevent student-athletes from endorsing certain business types, including tobacco, alcohol, and gambling products.

Can I wear my uniform or say the team motto or slogan while endorsing a sponsor?

These questions are being decided now. This is where a lawyer can help you.

Where else can I get information?

Some other useful resources you might review for more information include: