In case you hadn’t heard, college athletes are now able to profit off their name, image and likeness (NIL). Late last month, the Supreme Court issued a landmark (and unanimous) decision that essentially held that the NCAA cannot limit education-related benefits student-athletes receive for playing sports. Although the opinion did not specifically address NIL rights, it is clear that any effort the NCAA makes to restrict such rights would be construed as a violation of this country’s antitrust laws.
As such, the NCAA voted to suspend its NIL-related amateurism rules, thereby allowing student-athletes to monetize their NIL rights without fear of being declared ineligible. There are still a lot of questions that remain unanswered with respect to these issues — for instance, there is not yet a federal law that governs student-athletes’ NIL rights, so each athlete’s specific rights are dependent upon the state in which he or she attends college — but for our purposes here at Pro Football Rumors, there are two major takeaways.
One, as Ben Volin of the Boston Globe details, the NFLPA has issued a memo to agents making it clear that while they are free to enter into marketing deals with collegiate players, such deals cannot include inducements for those players to sign with the agent when they elect to turn pro. In fact, agents are not even permitted to have discussions with the player about future representation. That will be a difficult rule for the union to enforce, but it’s worth noting nonetheless.
Also, there could now be some players who elect to remain in college longer than they would have before, as they might be able to make more money off NIL rights as a collegian than they would from an NFL contract. Of course, prior to the developments of the last several weeks, the primary factor in a student-athlete’s calculus was whether staying in school would improve his draft stock. Now, that decision is a little more complicated.
It is true that the stars and slam-dunk first-round picks who will land rookie contracts worth millions of dollars probably will not see their decision as to when to turn pro affected too much. However, players who are popular on-campus figures but who project as late-round draft choices will certainly have a great deal to think about.
Said agent Ron Slavin (via Chase Goodbread of NFL.com), “I think guys that might stay back in school are (popular) skill-position players that aren’t top-100 picks, who can make more money staying in school than going into the draft for a $250,000 signing bonus and maybe make a roster, when they can go back to their school, be the superstar and maybe make 500 grand to a million.”
We will have to wait until next year’s draft cycle to see how all of this plays out, and more legislation could certainly be passed in the meantime. Until then, fans who are interested can access the Supreme Court opinion here, and they can review a summary of the current state of NIL rights via this piece from The Athletic College Football Staff.