Virginia high school athletes could soon profit from product endorsements, other deals

A big change could be coming for high school athletes in Virginia. The state’s high school league is set to finalize a policy that would allow teens to make money off their name, image and likeness.

Early next month, the Virginia High School League is expected to approve a so-called NIL policy with a two-thirds majority that will allow high school athletes to earn money off product endorsements and selling autographs and merchandise.

Maryland and D.C. already have similar policies in place, and VHSL executive director Billy Haun told WTOP, at this point in high school sports, it’s inescapable.

“What the policy is, is to help provide direction and guidance to our youth in schools and to parents about … how you can participate in an NIL without violating Virginia High School League rules,” Haun said.

The policy would allow students to profit from:

  • Product endorsements
  • Personal appearances
  • Autograph sessions
  • Merchandise or apparel sales
  • Group licensing
  • Acting as a social media influencer

The policy includes things that student-athletes cannot attach their names to, such as alcohol, gambling or adult entertainment sales. They also can’t use a potential NIL deal to determine enrollment in a school or membership on a team.

But it also notes that kids can’t use their school affiliation to make money. So any appearances or social media videos featuring their team name, high school conference or logo would be a no-no.

“Obviously, they can wear some uniform, but they can’t wear their school uniform, because they can’t make money off of it representing something that doesn’t belong to them.

The space around how young athletes make money, and how much, is ever-changing in both the high school and college space. So Haun acknowledges it is very likely the policy, which is similar to those in states, such as New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania, could change.

“I do think that whatever we do now, I will not be surprised that if in the next two, three years, we don’t have to come back in to edit the policy and make some changes to fit whatever is going to happen. Because I think it’s still so new that people just don’t know,” Haun said.

If Virginia athletes can secure NIL deals under a statewide policy, they’d join athletes in 25 other states including Maryland that have similar policies, according to Business of College Sports. DC lawmakers have also approved NIL’s for high school athletes.

If the policy passes on its second vote, it would go into effect July 1.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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