What Are NIL's?

Until recently, the term NIL had little meaning to those interested in college sports -- unless you were on the soccer team (and then it means "zero", literally). But now, NIL -- which stands for name, image, likeness -- is a game changer for the world of college athletics as we know it. 

Conceptually, NIL means that college athletes can now earn and accept money doing appearances. commercial endorsements, social media posts, writing books, hosting camps giving lessons and performing various other commercial activities outside of their schools, all without running afoul of NCAA rules.

NCAA's policy changes will allow athletes to earn money from their image or name, just as legislation in several states, either will take effect or soon will. The NCAA's move is a dramatic one, breaking from decades of not permitting said money-making opportunities.


What does the NCAA's NIL ruling mean for athletes?

Basically, if a college athlete lives in a state where legislation has been passed, they can profit from their name, image, or likeness according to state law. 

If the college athlete doesn't live in a state with a NIL law on the books, the individual school must come up with the policy for athletes to follow. According to ESPN, the NCAA's guidelines on this are few: Don't allow boosters to pay athletes and don't let endorsement deals influence recruiting.

This move, is seen as a stopgap until federal legislation is passed. It allows schools in those states without laws on the books to have a more even playing field, provided the schools enact a NIL policy.

The NIL’s allow intercollegiate athletes to earn compensation for the use of her or his name, image and likeness, and prohibits post-secondary institutions from preventing athletes from earning money or goods. The schools themselves can't compensate athletes for their name, image or likeness.

Why is NIL legislation so important?

Going back decades, the NCAA maintained itself an institution of amateur sports, even as its member schools were making millions, sometimes hundreds of millions, from the athletes' labor. The athletes themselves weren't allowed compensation beyond a fully paid education.

This changes that, allowing athletes to see a share of money for their hard work and athletic prowess. This forward -thinking policy is as big as that of Title IX in 1981, which made the NCAA sponsor women's athletics championships. 

What made the NCAA change its stance?

The Supreme Court ruled June 21 that the NCAA's rules restricting education-related benefits were illegal. The court was unanimous.

While the decision did not mean all student athletes could start signing endorsement deals, it did question whether any restrictions on acceptable benefits would stand up to scrutiny of future challenges on antitrust regulations.

“Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in a concurring opinion to the court's decision. “And under ordinary principles of antitrust law, it is not evident why college sports should be any different. The NCAA is not above the law.”