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UNC basketball players, local stores teaming up to thrive in NIL era

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A Leaky Black basketball t-shirt is pictured at Classic Carolina on Wednesday, Nov 2, 2022.

Entering year two of the NIL era, the ability to monetize a player’s name, image and likeness is benefiting both UNC basketball players and local Chapel Hill businesses alike. 

In June 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled the NCAA violated antitrust laws, and it could not restrict college athletes from receiving compensation outside of scholarships and stipends. As a result, college athletes could begin making money by using their name, image and likeness through merchandise, camps, social media posts and other branding opportunities.

The ruling went into effect on July 1, and Holly Dedmond, store manager at Chapel Hill Sportswear, said she was approached by parents of a football player to begin working together soon after. 

By mid-July of 2021, the store offered its first merchandise featuring current UNC athletes. Now, over a year later, the store stocks T-shirts with the faces of current basketball players Armando Bacot and RJ Davis, former player Brady Manek, field hockey forward Erin Matson and many more. 

In order to have their T-shirts sold at the store, athletes submit their designs, and the store screen-prints them. Then, the profit is split between the store and the athlete.

Dedmond said NIL has had a positive impact on the store by bringing in more customers – both in the store and online. She added that NIL further solidifies the store’s relationship with the UNC athletic department and the individual teams. 

“It's fun when RJ Davis comes in the store and says, ‘Hey, how's my T-shirt selling?’,” she said. “It's kind of neat to say, ‘Hey, I know him.’” 

In addition to NIL shirts, the store has also hosted autograph signings, and Dedmond said she enjoys getting to watch the players interact with people.

“That's a lot of fun when they get to be a person, not just an athlete,” she said. “We enjoy that.”

Chapel Hill Sportswear is not the only locally-owned UNC gear shop hosting NIL T-shirts. Women’s basketball players like redshirt senior guard Eva Hodgson and junior guard Kennedy Todd-Williams have their own t-shirts at Johnny T-shirt. 

“I am from the smallest town in New Hampshire, and playing at this level, it's like a dream, and then being able to have a shirt that says my name, is in Carolina blue and has my number it's really, really cool,” Hodgson said. 

Todd-Williams said she views NIL as a win-win situation. She said her shirts were more in demand after the team’s run to the Sweet 16, which helped drive up sales for the store. 

With NIL, Todd-Williams said she is learning how to make herself marketable. 

“(NIL) is a good way to either connect with local communities or people in general,” she said. “I think that's the biggest thing for this generation. Now, it's like we're moving into networking and connections, so it's all about who you know. So it's very fun being in this NIL era.”

NIL not only allows college athletes to partner with businesses and release merchandise, it also allows players to get paid to host basketball camps for young athletes. Hodgson’s favorite experience so far has been mentoring kids and teaching about basketball. 

“For me, it's never fully been about the money, and so I would have done all those things without it,” Hodgson said. “But now, having the opportunity to maybe make a little cash while doing something I love has been really rewarding.”  


@dthsports |

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