Virginia public high school athletes on verge of profiting from NIL deals

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The Virginia High School League is moving toward allowing high school athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness.

In January, the league’s executive committee recommended a proposal by a vote of 31-0 to permit athletes to earn money through things like autographs and personal appearances among other items. The proposal goes to a second vote when the executive committee meets again May 3. At this point, the proposal is expected to pass.

If the proposal is approved on a second vote by a two thirds majority, it goes into effect July 1.

The proposal says that athletes can profit from the following:

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

Athletes may not be compensated if they:

  • Use money from a potential NIL deal to determine enrollment at a school or membership on a team.
  • Or if they use any item that associates them with their high school, district region or the VHSL (uniforms, logos, marks, mascots, etc.)

In addition, the proposal says “students may not engage in any NIL activities involving, displaying or endorsing the following categories of products and services:

  • Adult entertainment products and services
  • Alcohol products
  • Tobacco and electronic smoking products and devices
  • Opioids and prescription pharmaceuticals
  • Controlled dangerous substances
  • Casinos and gambling, including sports betting
  • Weapons, firearms and ammunition

Also “no school or anyone employed by or affiliated with a member school, including booster clubs, coaches, administrators, alumni or an NIL Collective, may solicit, arrange, or negotiate compensation for a student’s NIL other than their own child.”

An NIL Collective is defined as “a group of alumni, supporters, parents, or other people who form a corporation, limited liability company, partnership, non-profit organization foundation, or other entity to provide NIL opportunities to student-athletes of a specific school.”

The proposal reflects a national trend at both the collegiate and high school level. Currently, 25 states, including Maryland have already implemented NIL deals for high school athletics, according to The District of Columbia has also approved NIL’s on the high school level.

“The way I look at it, the kids should be able to market themselves,” said Colgan head baseball coach Mike Colangelo.

Patriot head boys basketball coach Sherman Rivers agreed.

“This is the nature of the beast,” Rivers said. “If the kids are good enough to benefit from it, why not?”

The biggest concern is making sure rules are enforced and parameters are in place.

“We don’t want it to turn into the wild, wild west,” Colangelo said. “As long as it’s fair, I have no problem with it.”

Battlefield head football Greg Hatfield said the proposal, if approved, could open up a “Pandora’s box” in how it might influence a kid to go to a certain school based on what that school might offer with a shoe apparel company for example.

“There could be more pressure on kids to make decisions,” Hatfield said. “That’s not easy.”

Hylton head football coach Nate Murphy sees the same challenges.

“I am for allowing players to benefit from making funds off their likeness, but the wide-open approach invites many things that cannot be controlled,” Murphy said. “We struggle now with keeping kids at their school they are zoned at.”

Osbourn head boys basketball coach Rocky Carter said he has no issues with college kids getting NIL deals. But he has issues with this proposal, saying, among other things, it could benefit private schools more since they may not have to abide by the VHSL’s NIL rules.

“Money has ruined this game,” Carter said. “[Basketball] has not been pure for awhile. The rich get richer.”

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