EYE 2 EYE: Name, Image and Likeness for NCAA Athletes

Sifting through the pros and cons of NIL policies

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Brent Gelick / Talon

Adam Helfstein, Eric Yeung, Alex Gaspar, and Brent Gelick

Introduction to topic: 

Effective July 1, 2021, National Collegiate Athletic Association athletes are now able to profit off of their own name, image and likeness, or NIL. With this monumental step, the NCAA finally backed off their “amateur” label for all college athletes and gave them freedom to get a piece of the pie that they generate with their performance on the field.  

Pro-NIL (Adam and Eric):

By enacting these long awaited NIL rules, athletes now have a much larger responsibility outside of their sport and academics. This responsibility is one that should be embraced by both athlete and consumer alike. 

By having their name stand for something more than just athletic performance, student-athletes lucky enough to be in a position to profit off their NIL have a much needed source of income. There have been horror stories in the past about athletes not being able to afford food or clothing due to unnecessarily stringent NCAA policies that confined them to being characterized as amateurs. Athletes already have a limited amount of free time on their hands with practices, games, school and travel — yet, they are still expected to do the tasks expected of any other student at their university. The money helps out college athletes who would otherwise not be able to afford basic necessities or occasional luxuries. 

The amount of NCAA athletes that actually make it to the professional ranks is infinitesimal – fewer than 2%. NIL can serve as a safety blanket for life after college in the likely event that the athlete is not to make it to the pros or has their career cut short by injuries. Additionally, the money that athletes earn from NIL is a learning experience and helps them dip their toes in financial literacy. Many athletes, professional and collegiate, struggle to handle their money in a responsible manner. With the introduction to a good amount of money and proper advice, student-athletes will be set up for the future with the knowledge of investing and managing their money. Furthermore, with the introduction of NIL policies, athletes can now hire financial advisors who can assist them in taking care of their money and preserving their positive reputation.

Moreover, in the age of social media, college athletes can reach a larger base than ever, with many having a considerable social media following. Social media promotions by these athletes can be fruitful for both them and the advertiser.

The final aspect of the argument in favor of allowing athletes to profit off of their name, image, and likeness is rather simple. 

It is fundamentally unethical to not allow athletes to profit off their own NIL. They earned that reputation and fame from their personal achievements — it only makes sense that they should be able to benefit from their own hard work. 

Universities benefit greatly, both economically and as far as fan perception, from having high-profile athletes on their team. They are able to make money off of the athlete, while the athlete can independently profit as well. 

Leveling the playing field by the introduction of NIL policies is nothing if not ethical and logical.

Anti-NIL (Brent and Alex):

With the new NIL policies set in place by the NCAA, there is certain fear that the NCAA is headed in a dangerous direction. Permitting college athletes to generate money based on their name, image and likeness does more harm than good. 

To begin, allowing college athletes to profit off their NIL weakens school and team unity across the board. Due to the reality that a majority of student athletes will never go pro, most athletes compete to represent their school and display their talents without the thought of financial compensation at the end of the road. 

This is beneficial to collegiate athletics in the sense that viewers feel that the stakes are higher because school pride and dignity is in the minds of the athletes, rather than the thought of a high-paying contract. Once the financial incentive factor is added, such authenticity and groundedness vanishes. By removing the desire for athletes to compete solely to represent their school, collegiate athletics quickly will become nothing more than a bootleg of professional athletics. These are students, not entrepreneurs.

For the time being, scholarships serve athletes outstandingly well, guaranteeing them a free or limited priced education for competing for their school. The last thing college sports need is for student athletes to be treated as professionals. 

With the tangible thought of making money off of one’s brand as a college athlete, student athletes might go to ridiculous lengths to capitalize on this opportunity. Athletes become plagued with extrinsic motivation, driving the focus of the student athletes away from their sports and towards the idea of economic compensation, distancing the humanity of these college athletes from the school with which they belong. All of the sudden Instagram and Twitter followers will be far more important than athletic progress. As competition and talent decreases as student athletes focus less on their sports, so will viewership. 

While partnering with a brand can be extremely beneficial for some, for others it can have a negative long term impact on athletes personal brand. A program may also take advantage of this system to hire professionals who assist athletes in building their personal image. These “brand coaches” can take this opportunity to take advantage of the new NCAA NIL policy, giving certain teams (particularly in dense media markets such as Los Angeles and New York) recruiting advantages over others. 

The potential for young athletes to get exploited without the right counseling or management to help them sign an seemingly advantageous agreement significantly increases as the pool of candidates expands. 

The new NIL policies are lackluster and will be largely ineffective and potentially harmful for the future of collegiate athletics. 

Common ground:

School is incredibly important for student-athletes.

Few NCAA athletes go pro — their college experience is vital to their future whether or not they reach the next level.

Social media will play an important role in how athletes utilize their NIL.