Photo Credit: Eric Francis

What You Need to Know about Name, Image and Likeness

June 29, 2021

Lexi Sun applied for an LLC in California late last week. The entity name? “Lexi Sun, LLC.”

Sun, who has more than 75,000 Instagram followers, is uniquely qualified for the name, image and likeness era that’s about to begin. She is set to embark on a fifth year at Nebraska, working to earn her master’s degree in advertising and public relations, while also capitalizing on one more season with the Husker volleyball team. All of that to say that Sun is going to make some serious money from her name, image and likeness.

She isn’t the only one. While many will focus on football and basketball, don’t sleep on what name, image and likeness will mean for every athlete. From swimmers who can now openly support and endorse Speedo to gymnasts who can design their own leotards to baseball players who can join the TikTok creator fund, it’s going to be a big deal for student-athletes everywhere.

It’s also pretty confusing. In fact, it feels like by the time anyone becomes an expert in name, image and likeness, something changes. What does it look like now though?

Let’s review.

What is name, image and likeness?

Name, image and likeness (NIL) is essentially a person’s personal brand. NIL legislation will allow student-athletes to profit off that brand through a variety of channels.

This is not a pay-for-play model, which would allow student-athletes to be compensated from a school in exchange for participating in a sport. NIL will instead give student-athletes the same rights that any college students have to profit off their name (or brand).

How can student-athletes profit off their NIL?

While a lot of focus has been put on potential endorsement deals (and has often been used to show how unfair it could be from one athlete to the next), endorsements are only one small part of NIL. Student-athletes will be able to harness the power of their social media following (with either sponsored posts or advertisements through their channels), the creator studios for platforms like YouTube and TikTok, selling autographs, hosting private training sessions or camps, selling merchandise and much more.

When does NIL go into place?

Thursday, July 1.

With that said, expect things to get messy. Why? Because only so many states have passed laws surrounding NIL. Six states have had legislation already in place that begins July 1: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas. Kentucky passed legislation via executive order by the state governor that goes into place on July 1 and Arizona’s goes into place July 23. Ohio also signed an executive order on Monday.

Nebraska and Oklahoma also have legislation in place that allows student-athletes to profit off their NIL immediately, as long as the schools grant it. In any case, schools in Nebraska and Oklahoma have to allow NIL rights no later than July 1, 2023.

Another 10 states have passed legislation that goes into effect in later years. Those states are  Arkansas (2022), California (2023), Colorado (2023), Maryland (2023), Michigan (2022), Montana (2023), Nevada (2022), New Jersey (2025), South Carolina (2022) and Tennessee (2022).

What about the states that haven’t yet passed NIL laws?

Good question. While the NCAA had hoped federal legislation would go into effect much sooner, that has been delayed. That means the NCAA had to do something. In what is truly the 11th hour for name, image and likeness, the NCAA Division I Council recommended on Monday to temporarily “suspend amateurism rules” related to a student-athletes’ ability to make money from NIL.

The NCAA Division I Board of Directors will meet Wednesday to review the recommendation.

What does this mean for recruiting?

We spoke about this more in-depth here and here, but some “benefits” will remain impermissible for high school students hoping to participate in college sports. At least right off the bat.

“While opening NIL activities to student-athletes, the policy leaves in place the commitment to avoid pay-for-play and improper inducements tied to choosing to attend a particular school,” the NCAA said in its statement on Monday. “Those prohibitions would remain in effect.”

There are still some concerns, of course. A number of comments in recent days have focused on what would stop a booster or prominent business from promising a recruit an endorsement deal down the road if they sign with a school. Similar to how it’ll likely get messy with what is and isn’t allowed from state-to-state, this will probably create some headaches too.

In fact, the NCAA proposed NIL framework from late-2020 included a piece on recruits entering NIL agreements as long as those deals were disclosed prior to signing with any school. Only time will tell how this all takes shape, but recruiting will certainly create some interesting case studies as we go.

With all of that said, expect to see schools use their NIL power to recruit. It’ll show up in the marketing pieces. It already has.

What does it mean for Nebraska?

While the state of Nebraska is leaving the decision on NIL to each school, UNL is fully prepared to move forward with allowing student-athletes to profit off of NIL beginning July 1. That means fans could see deals being made for Nebraska athletes as soon as Thursday, as long as the university moves forward as expected.

Is Nebraska ready?

Seems like it. The Huskers partnered with Opendorse and have recently launched the #NILbraska program, “a three-pronged approach to providing education for student-athletes to maximize their potential in the NIL category: Ready Now, Accelerate and the Husker Advantage.”

“At Nebraska, we have been committed since Day One to finding the best solutions for our student-athletes to monetize their Name, Image and Likeness while they are Huskers,” Nebraska interim athletic director Garrett Klassy said. “#NILbraska is one part of that approach and, perhaps more importantly, it will prepare every student-athlete to prosper after college as they learn how to create and operate their own businesses. The best part about #NILbraska is that these resources are available to our student-athletes after graduation. #NILbraska is the most comprehensive NIL program in the country.”

The Ready Now program launched at Nebraska in March of 2020 with Opendorse helping educate Nebraska student-athletes on growing their following and increasing engagement in an NIL world.

For more on how Nebraska plans to help student-athletes navigate this new world, check out this full guide here.

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