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College Athletes Will Soon Be Able To Profit From Endorsements

NCAA Clears The Way For Monetizing Athletes’ Names, Images and Likenesses by 2021

106 years after Jim Thorpe was stripped of his Olympic medals for playing semi-pro baseball prior to the 1912 Stockholm games, the lines between professional and amateur athletics have greatly diminished. Student-athletes are still prohibited from being paid directly by their colleges and universities, but they will soon be able to earn substantial sums of money from endorsements while retaining their college eligibility.

The NCAA’s Board of Governors voted this week to allow student-athletes the same opportunity to profit from the use of their name, image and likeness that non-athlete students currently enjoy. The vote will not affect any immediate changes, however, because each athletic division was given until 2021 to create new rules.

In 2017, Central Florida kicker Donald De La Haye was stripped of his eligibility to play college football because he maintained a YouTube channel chronicling his career that profited from selling advertisements.  De La Haye sued, and the case was settled on undisclosed terms in 2018. He presently is rostered by the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League. De La Haye’s case spurred the NCAA to consider reforms.

In a statement just released by the NCAA, Michael V. Drake, the Board of Governors’ Chairman (and also President of Ohio State) acknowledged the need to modernize the eligibility rules, saying, “we must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes. This modernization for the future is a natural extension of the numerous steps NCAA members have taken in recent years to improve support for student-athletes, including full cost of attendance and guaranteed scholarships.”

The forthcoming rules that will govern athletes’ ability to obtain endorsement fees will be guided by the following principles: Compensation may not be based on athletic performance or participation; the recruiting environment must be preserved and there can be no inducements to select, remain at, or transfer to a specific institution; student-athletes shall not be considered employees of the university; student-athletes must be treated similarly to non-athlete students unless a compelling reason exists to differentiate; the rules should maintain the priorities of education and the collegiate experience; the rules must be transparent, focused and enforceable and facilitate fair and balanced competition; and they must enhance the ideals of diversity, inclusion and gender equity. 

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