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The Daily Tar Heel

NIL brings changes to college, high school landscape, impacts UNC athletes

A group of college athletes explores company options at an NIL Meet & Greet on Aug. 22, 2022.

Name, image and likeness — more commonly known as NIL — is highly debated, discussed and is rapidly becoming an integral part of collegiate athletics. Here’s the rundown on NIL in North Carolina and at UNC.

What is NIL? 

The adoption of NIL has opened up legal pathways for college athletes to monetize their fame, personal brand and on-field accomplishments while not being paid for playing their sport — something that is illegal in the world of amateur sports.

Under these policies, athletes can now participate in promotional and marketing campaigns, allowing their NIL to be used while receiving material or monetary compensation. This can include signing autographs, running camps, holding meet and greets or endorsing products via social media.

In North Carolina, both collegiate and high school athletes can profit from their name, image and likeness. Recently, decisions from both the U.S. Supreme Court and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association has changed the landscape of compensation for athletes — adding a monetary layer to collegiate and high school sports.

In NCAA v. Alston, the Supreme Court ruled that “education-related benefits” should not be withheld from student-athletes and that it is up to the NCAA to create regulations on athletes profiting from their NIL.

The policy is intended to keep college athletics fair and condemn “pay-for-play,” while allowing student-athletes the ability to make a profit due to their on-field ability and their personal brand.

How are high school students affected? 

The NCHSAA's board of directors approved a policy that would allow high school athletes in the state to profit off their NIL beginning July 1. But, athletes, their families and coaches are expected to complete an annual instructional NIL course.

Though North Carolina has become the 28th state to pass NIL policies for high school athletes, legislators amended N.C. Senate Bill 636 to supersede the NCHSAA’s vote a few hours after the policy was approved. The bill currently sits in the N.C. House rules committee.

How does NIL work?

Athletes can gain social media followers, sign brand endorsement deals as well as hold autograph or meet-and-greet sessions. At UNC, the athletic department’s “laUNCh” programpartners with groups to help assist athletes with navigating NIL. Partnerships include schools within the UNC system, The Rams Club and various other outside companies.

Tar Heel athletes have various NIL deals ranging from apparel companies to restaurants. College football and basketball players make the most in NIL at UNC.

UNC men's basketball player Armando Bacot is one of the top NIL earners at UNC. The center signed a deal with Rhoback Apparel at the beginning of last basketball season and as part of his contract, Bacot will receive gear, compensation from sales and the opportunity for content creation on his social media.

Bacot and former UNC small forward Leaky Black both partnered with Chapel Hill’s Town Hall Grill, where both of the athletes have signature menu items: Lock Down Chicken Tenders and the Mondo Burger.

Black also inked an inventive deal with local company Ease Plumbing in a "No leaks in this house" advertising campaign.

Others took other culinary routes, such as Bacot and UNC women’s basketball guard Deja Kelly, who both have NIL deals Dunkin'. Kelly is the top female Tar Heel earner and has deals with Beats by Dre and Crocs. 

Quarterback Drake Maye has also made a splash in the NIL world — as well as being the top earner for UNC — signing an endorsement deal with Jimmy’s Famous Seafood, along with six of his receiving corps. The athletes will promote the meal prep service and receive weekly meals from Jimmy’s Famous Meals through December 2023.

What are the implications?

Profiting off NIL is not supposed to be “pay-for-play,” since athletes are not making money based on playing their sport — like professional athletics — but instead using their platform to garner deals. However, according to a survey by On3, a college sports and NIL database, 30 percent of top recruits would be willing to attend a school that is an otherwise less desirable fit if it meant a bigger NIL payday.

On the flip side, college athletes are able to profit off their name, image and likeness being used by businesses and corporations and earning their piece of the multi-million dollar college sports industry.

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@dthsports |