More than a year after college athletes were granted the ability to profit off their name, image, and likeness (NIL), publicity rights are slowly but surely trickling down to the high school level.
Nearly 20 states now allow high school athletes to monetize their NIL, a jump up from five last fall. Oklahoma became the 18th NIL-friendly state last week, and Oregon officially joined the expanding list on Monday. Illinois, Nevada, and Pennsylvania could be next to do away with amateurism at the high school level.
Notably, though, only one state within the SEC footprint — Louisiana — has hopped aboard the bandwagon. Perhaps keeping top quarterback recruit Arch Manning and his $3.4 million NIL valuation in-state for his senior year of high school proved to be enough incentive.
Lucrative deals for football and men’s basketball players tend to dominate the headlines, but the issue of NIL affects all high school sports. Take Claire Curzan, for example, who had to choose between endorsement opportunities and swimming for her high school team last season as a senior because of North Carolina’s restrictions. Curzan’s Tokyo Olympic teammates, Bella Sims and Katie Grimes, hardly got a choice at all as they were deemed ineligible in Nevada for accepting funds from USA Swimming.
“It is hard to decide on getting an education versus making a living,” said Curzan’s mother, Tracy, who played soccer and lacrosse at Harvard. “If you’ve got a gift, you shouldn’t have to choose between an education and that … (NIL) just opened up all these new avenues.”
Curzan opted to wait until after her last high school meet to cash in on her publicity rights, but not everyone has been so patient. Last year, quarterback Quinn Ewers left his Texas high school early to enroll at Ohio State, where he quickly inked a multi-million-dollar deal that is outlawed in Texas among high school athletes. Texas is unique in that its authority comes from state law rather than a high school association.
Jada Williams, a 17-year-old women’s basketball recruit, received several offers for NIL deals last year that she couldn’t accept because of Missouri’s policy on amateurism. So Williams took matters into her own hands and moved to California, turning her massive social media following into a six-figure income.
States that are slow to adapt to modernizing views on athletes’ rights risk losing top-tier talent. Denying high school athletes their publicity rights could even have legal repercussions, too. In Florida, a pending class-action lawsuit from Cincinnati Reds draftee and Vanderbilt baseball commit Sal Stewart claims that the state’s guidelines against NIL violate antitrust law.
Supporters of amateurism say that stripping high school athletes of their publicity rights is in their own best interest, for their protection even.
“They’re too young to be making decisions like that,” said Mississippi High School Athletics Association executive director Rickey Neaves.
They may be young, but they’re certainly not dumb. With the majority of states still prohibiting NIL monetization at the high school level, more student-athletes will follow the money in search of the same publicity rights afforded to other students who don’t play sports.
Check out where each state stands on the topic below:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
Prohibited But Under Consideration
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
For a closer look at each state’s NIL policy, check out Opendorse and businessofcollegesports.com. They both have great databases tracking NIL rules, though not everything is entirely up to date in this always-evolving landscape.
Most states that grant high school athletes their publicity rights have conditions such as no wearing school or league logos and no advertising drugs, alcohol, or gambling. Still, the limitations didn’t stop every member of the nation’s top-ranked prep football team, St. John Bosco in California, from receiving an NIL offer last month courtesy of a sports performance and technology company.