COLLEGE STATION, TX — For the first time in NCAA history, college athletes will now be able to earn compensation by means of sponsorships, endorsements, and public appearances.
Financial compensation for student-athletes has been a topic of debate for many years, as young men and women were consistently barred by the NCAA from receiving income for their hard work. This week, the NCAA Board of Directors made a formal decision that allows athletes to now profit from their own names and likenesses.
“I would say a lot of our teammates have been offered things, especially like with clothing brands, just to put on our social media stories for people to see," recalled Destiny Pitts, a graduating senior and Texas A&M women's basketball player.
Though Pitts will graduate before she can fully benefit from the new ruling, she’s happy for her fellow team members, who may pursue opportunities they’ve always had to turn down.
“One of our teammates has her own brand, and before we weren’t able to re-post her stuff [on social media], because I guess that was, like, promoting it," Pitts relayed. "But now that the rule has passed, we’re able to promote our teammates and ourselves.”
This Association's decision coincides exactly with the enacting of recently passed Texas legislation that grants athletes these financial rights. Texas is one of a dozen states who recently passed laws over this matter. Under the new ruling, athletes like Pitts have regained financial control over their public image.
Pitts noted that despite the happiness she feels over this point of progress, she thinks students ought to proceed with caution.
"My advice for our student-athletes is to become educated before we tie ourselves down to a deal or sign any contracts," Pitts said. "Because at our age we have tendencies to be grateful for what comes our way, so we might want to jump onto something right away before reading the ins and outs of it.”
The law team at Houston-based sports and entertainment law firm Rose Sanders says that this change is a long time coming.
"I think that this is monumental," commented 3L law clerk J.A. Wright. "The fact that athletes are now able to get paid in any type of deal that doesn’t directly align with the school; it works.”
The firm's Aggie alumnus, attorney Charles Sanders, shares some of Destiny Pitts' wariness about students entering deals that could bring them negative outcomes.
“Hopefully they’re going to regulate this, because you’re talking about a person’s right to privacy and a person’s right to publicity, and people’s names and images being exploited," Sanders said. "It’s good, I'm just looking immediately at both sides.”
Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork took to the school’s social media earlier this week in a Facebook town hall video, where he discussed Texas A&M’s role in working with student-athletes through this change.
"We can educate our student-athletes, we can educate our boosters and our fans, but we cannot set up agreements between an athlete and a business," Bjork said. "... We can’t set fair market value, we can’t arrange.”
Bjork pointed out that student-athletes will be required to report any contracts to the university, so that the school can confirm the contract doesn’t violate Texas A&M policy or state law. He said he does believe this new opportunity for students can be of benefit to the university, in terms of recruiting.
Bjork also mentioned A&M's new Name, Image, and Likeness [NIL] program called ‘Amplify,’ which was already launched at the beginning of June, and will offer student-athletes financial workshops, education on building a brand, and advice for negotiating offers.
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