2021 NCAA national champion Stanford Cardinal women's basketball team
The 2021 NCAA women’s basketball champion Stanford Cardinal (Evert Nelson/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
PLAYERS & TEAM EARNINGS

Is the Endgame Finally Here in the NCAA Name, Image, & Likeness Showdown?

As more states act on their own, NCAA President Mark Emmert is now calling for an official guidance on NIL by July.

After years of arguing and posturing, we may have finally reached the tipping point for amateur athletes cashing in on their names, images, and likenesses — potentially as soon as this summer. First reported by the New York Times, NCAA President Mark Emmert said he is now open to allowing players to engage in endorsement, sponsorship, and licensing deals starting “before, or as close to, July 1.”

While not without some key caveats, the news is the best evidence yet that a breakthrough on this incredibly contentious issue really is near.

The announcement comes as states across the country move to enact laws allowing college athletes to earn money off of their names, images, and likenesses (NIL). In Georgia, for example, Governor Brian Kemp signed legislation last week that would allow student athletes to profit off their own image rights as of July 1. The bill also allows the schools themselves to cash in.

In his interview with The Times, Emmert said he wants a path for athletes to sign these sorts of deals before any individual state laws regarding NIL ake effect.

“We need to get a vote on these rules that are in front of the members now,” Emmert said.

The NCAA has been under fire for years thanks to an unwavering, increasingly obsolete stance on student athlete amateurism. If implemented, these changes would mean college athletes across the country — not just in those states with relevant legislation — would be able to accept endorsement and sponsorship money and license themselves for everything from jerseys to trading cards to memorabilia to video games.

Debates over the exact methods of adoption and implementation will rage on. But at the very least, the NCAA sees the writing on the wall.

These breakthroughs became possible when leading voices decided to turn directly to legislatures and the court system to help move the needle rather than waiting around for the NCAA to do the right thing. With more and more states poised to ratchet up the pressure by passing their own NIL laws, the NCAA now has effectively no choice but to relent and support across-the-board rule changes at the federal level.

In terms of how they’re going about doing this, however, reactions across the sports media world have been mixed.

So, will college athletes get to cash in on Cameo and sponsored posts on Instagram? Will they get to sign multi-million dollar shoe deals? Will they get paid if for their likenesses appear in video games?

These details are still far from being hammered out. But we can now be certain that the days of the NCAA dragging its heels on NIL are over, and a new era of athlete empowerment is about to begin.

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