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NCAA Will Let College Athletes Earn Money Off Of Name And Likeness


If you're a fan of college sports, you might notice a change next time you tune in to catch a game. You could see a commercial with a student athlete trying to sell you a cellphone plan or maybe convincing you to buy a brand of cereal. That's because the NCAA has changed its rules to allow student athletes to make money off their names, image and likeness. But the rules are not the same for everyone. Some states have passed their own laws, and schools in states without laws must come up with their own rules.

Joining us to explain is Ross Dellenger. He's a writer for Sports Illustrated and has reported extensively on all of this. Welcome to the program.

ROSS DELLENGER: Yeah, good to be here.

FADEL: So let's start with just how significant these new rules for students who'll be able to make money for the first time are.

DELLENGER: Very significant, especially for those who - and there's plenty of them from backgrounds that struggle financially. In fact, I was talking to an athlete, a quarterback of Miami, who said, you know, plenty of his teammates have to send their monthly stipend check for living expenses back home to their families. So for those athletes, it's huge. And not that a lot of them are going to make an extreme amount of money, but it's just something there for them. And, you know, athletes can, like you mentioned, appear on commercials, endorse products, maybe even have their own business, sell apparel, things like that.

FADEL: And what are some of the deals student athletes have made since the NCAA rules went into effect this week?

DELLENGER: Well, there's a wide range of them, either the star football or basketball player striking deals or the woman athlete who had large social media followings, especially on TikTok and Instagram, getting the biggest deals. And there's been some live public appearances and autograph sessions. And a lot of athletes, especially those with a big brand, star athletes, have created their own logo and trademark and apparel they're selling as well.

FADEL: Now, we're speaking about students who were able to enter into agreements with companies and brands and - but not every state's allowing this. And the rules aren't uniform, right? So can you tell us about that?

DELLENGER: Yeah. So it is complicated, and it's a little chaotic. The NCAA got forced into changing their rules because of state legislatures passing laws that permit those athletes in that state to profit from their name, image and likeness. However, the NCAA waited so long to change its rules that many states took effect the same day, July 1, when the NCAA's rules took effect. And if you are in a school that doesn't yet have a law that takes effect, then you would adhere to the school's rules. So the schools are having to create their own rules kind of at the last minute. Among the state laws, there are differences. And between the state laws and school rules, there are differences as well. Now, they're not big, but they are enough in recruiting to potentially cause some issues.

FADEL: What are the kinds of issues that could come up without a sort of uniform set of rules for every school in the country?

DELLENGER: Well, I think some of the notable differences are the use of the school's trademarks, a school's marks and logos. Can an athlete use the school's marks and logos in a commercial or any kind of endorsement deal? Some schools are going to allow that. Some are going to allow that on a situational basis. Others are not going to allow it at all. Some state laws prohibit it completely. Some allow it. Some leave it up to the schools. So that's a big one. You can imagine if you're recruiting a high school athlete, and he says, if I appear in a commercial once I get to your school, can I wear the school's hat, you know, or my uniform, my jersey in the commercial, and if the answer is no and then he asks the same to another school and the answer is yes, maybe that's the difference. These things can be very small on where an athlete chooses to go to school.

FADEL: So this sort of haphazard approach - from your reporting, does it seem purposeful from the NCAA to force congressional action? And what would need to happen to bring every school under the same set of rules?

DELLENGER: Yeah, it would have to be a congressional bill of some kind. When you have all these varying state laws, it's too late now for the NCAA to have some kind of uniform governance model. NCAA rules do not supersede state law. So...

FADEL: Yeah.

DELLENGER: ...You'd have to have some kind of congressional bill. And it's in the works. It's been in the works now for several months. But as with everything in Congress, there's some middle ground there that has to be met, and I think it will in the next few months at some point. But right now, negotiation talks are a little bit stalled.

FADEL: That's Ross Dellenger, writer for Sports Illustrated. Thank you for speaking with us.

DELLENGER: Yeah, no problem.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.