NCAA Name, Image, and Likeness Overview

The NCAA has strict rules on amateurism to make sure that student-athletes are students first and athletes second. For decades, NCAA student-athletes have never been able to profit off their athletic ability in any form other than an athletic scholarship and the benefits that come with that. In the past, any student-athlete who allowed their name, image, or likeness to be used to promote a commercial product would result in a loss of their athletic eligibility. This has now all changed under the NCAA's new name, image, and likeness policy. If you have legal questions related to a name, image, and likeness deal, then it is important that you speak to an experienced attorney right away.

What is Name, Image, and Likeness?

Name, image, and likeness refer to an NCAA student-athlete profiting from his or her name, image, and likeness for a commercial purpose. Previously, NCAA Bylaw 12.5.2.1 prohibited advertisements and promotions after becoming a student-athlete. Effective July 1, 2021, under a new NCAA policy, the NCAA has voted to suspend the rules against student-athletes being in advertisements and promotions. The suspension of these rules applies to all NCAA student-athletes participating in collegiate athletics at the Division I, Division II, and Division III levels. NCAA members at all levels voted to suspend these rules in favor of NCAA student-athletes.

What are NCAA Athletes Permitted to Do Now?

NCAA student-athletes at all divisions can now pursue commercial endorsement deals or other promotional business without violating NCAA rules against amateurism. The NCAA has provided the following guidance to student-athletes, recruits, and their families interesting in pursuing name, image, and likeness deals:

  • Name, image, and likeness deals must be consistent with state law of the state where the NCAA-member school is located.
  • If a student-athlete attends a school in a state where a name, image, and likeness law does not exist, then they can engage in name, image, and likeness activities without violating NCAA rules.
  • Individuals can employ a professional services provider such as an attorney for name, image, and likeness activities.
  • All student-athletes should report their name, image, and likeness activity to their schools to ensure compliance with state law and school policy.

The suspension of these rules allows student-athletes to maximize their earning potential before turning professional. If a student-athlete has a large social media following or wants to endorse a specific product or company, he or she can now do so under the interim policy. States and schools can adopt rules to establish reporting requirements.

Schools can set their own policies and standards when it comes to name, image, and likeness deals. In states where marijuana is legalized, the promotion of a marijuana company by a student-athlete can be cause for issue. As an example, the University of Michigan has publicly stated that student-athletes are not allowed to engage in any promotional activities with anything marijuana-related despite marijuana being legalized in the state of Michigan and the University of Michigan being home to “Hash Bash” since 1972.

Does This Mean Athletes Can Be Paid to Play?

No, student-athletes still cannot be paid to play in the NCAA. Division II Presidents Council chair stated that the new policy actually preserves the tradition and rules that college athletics are not “pay for play.” Under the policy, student-athletes cannot take improper inducements that are connected to choosing one school over another. This means that a name, image, and likeness deal cannot be secretly backed by a school to induce a student-athlete to attend that school. Under this policy, NCAA student-athletes are free to make as much money as they legally can through the market value of their name, image, and likeness. Being paid to play will still result in being declared ineligible, among other potential legal issues.

Is the NCAA's New Policy Permanent?

The NCAA's suspension of name, image, and likeness rules are on an interim basis until federal legislation is passed or the NCAA formally adopts new rules relating to name, image, and likeness advertising or promotions. Under this interim policy, NCAA schools and conferences can decide to adopt their own policies regarding name, image, and likeness to limit or enhance what a student-athlete is able to do. Because these policies can vary between conferences and schools, it is important to understand what your school allows and doesn't when it comes to name, image, and likeness deals. It is important to understand the guidelines of the NCAA's policy for a student-athlete to remain in compliance by understanding what his or her limits are in profiting from promotion.

What Is Expected to Happen Next?

The NCAA has stated that they need to continue to work with US Congress to create a permanent policy that would result in the consistent application of the law across the country. The NCAA remains committed at the moment to furthering and solidifying a student-athlete's ability to earn money from their name, image, and likeness. Whether the NCAA chooses to adopt its own new rules as a permanent solution leaves it to Congress is still unknown at this time. NCAA schools and conferences will continue to adopt their own rules until a permanent solution is agreed upon.

How an Attorney Can Be Helpful with a Name, Image, and Likeness Deal

Under the NCAA interim policy, a student-athlete may employ the services of a professional when engaging in name, image, and likeness activities. This means that a student-athlete can hire a professional individual such as an attorney or financial advisor when negotiating or finalizing name, image, and likeness agreements. Having an experienced attorney on your side can help you avoid making the mistakes that can cost you your college and athletic eligibility. There are limitations to what you are allowed to do by the NCAA, so it is essential that you stay within these limitations to remain eligible.

If you are presented with a name, image, and likeness deal proposal, it is important that you fully understand the terms of the deal so you can make the best choices. An experienced attorney can explain what confusing terms of a proposal mean and what they can mean for you if you choose to sign a name, image, and likeness deal.

The NCAA does not expect you as a student-athlete to understand business contracts and is specifically allowing you to employ the help of a professional under its policy so you can make the wisest business decisions. If there is a breach of contract regarding a name, image, and likeness deal, then you may need to hire an attorney to help you recover the money that is owed to you. If you have legal questions, then call attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm so we can help!

Why Hiring the Lento Law Firm is the Right Choice

If you are an NCAA student-athlete who needs information regarding name, image, & likeness, then it is important to seek the advice of an experienced attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have successfully represented student-athletes across the country dealing with various issues. Call us today at 888-535-3686 to learn why hiring the Lento Law Firm is the right choice to help you profit from yourself while maintaining eligibility.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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