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NAIA Grants Name, Image, Likeness Rights to Collegiate Student-Athletes
Thursday, October 8, 2020

While the collegiate sports world awaits the NCAA’s final position on the issue of student-athlete name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights, another college athletic governing body has stepped forward and made the initial legislative enactment authorizing student-athletes to profit from the use of their name, image, and likeness.

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has become the nation’s first college sports organization to enact specific NIL rights for its student-athletes.

The NAIA serves as the governing body for more than 77,000 student-athletes who play college sports for 250 smaller school members spread among 21 NAIA conference members throughout the United States.

An additional amendment to existing language in the NAIA Amateur Code, which had been previously expanded to allow student-athlete compensation for NIL rights provided that neither the student’s school nor student-athlete status was referenced, now authorizes a student-athlete to receive compensation for promoting any commercial product, enterprise, or for any public or media appearance. Additionally, it is now permissible for a student-athlete to reference their intercollegiate athletic participation in such promotions or appearances.

Announcing the legislation, NAIA President and CEO Jim Carr proclaimed,

“This is a landmark day for the NAIA, and we are happy to lead the way in providing additional opportunities for our student-athletes.”

Carr further explained, “The time was right for the NAIA to ensure our student-athletes can use their name, image and likeness in the same ways as all other college students.”

While making the formal announcement, the NAIA clarified specific areas of prior concern and noted specific scenarios in which student-athletes can now be compensated. The scenarios included:

  • Individual or team participation in a movie, show, commercial in their sport which identifies the student-athlete’s sport and college and permits the student-athlete to wear their school uniform.

  • Student-athletes can utilize their status as a student-athlete to promote and sell supplements.

  • Student-athletes can be a member of a music group and reference the school in a poster to promote the group.

  • Student-athletes can offer sport lessons to youth for an hourly fee and advertise on social media and flyers, including action shots of the student-athlete in their college uniform.

  • Student-athletes can publish a memoir about their life story and reference their position as a student-athlete and their specific institution.

  • Student-athletes can receive compensation for appearing in a local commercial, even if they reference their status as a student-athlete or their institution.

  • Student-athletes can monetize their influence on social media, with Instagram influencer status or a YouTube channel, even if they reference their status as a student-athlete or their institution.

While the collegiate sports world has watched five states (California, Colorado, Florida, Nebraska, and New Jersey) lead the legislative way for student-athletes with specific state law enactment of NIL legislation and the introduction of multiple proposed federal NIL legislation, the NAIA has taken the first official step to authorize student-athlete NIL rights. While awaiting the next phase of the NCAA’s proposed NIL legislation, with an anticipated January 2021 effective date, the pressure to enact legislation similar to the current state laws and the NAIA’s legislative enactment will continue to build.

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