High School Athletes and NIL Deals

Dear Dr. Per Cap: 

Last year, college athletes got the green light to profit from their name, image, and likeness.  Does this also apply to high school athletes?  We’ve got some great, young basketball players in our community who I think local businesses would be happy to compensate for advertising or promotional appearances.


Plays by the Rules

Dear Plays by the Rules,

Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) deals have forever changed the landscape of college sports. While it’s still not OK for college athletes to be paid for playing their chosen sport, they can indeed now profit by creating and selling an individual brand based on their athletic fame and reputation.

Many college athletes, both women and men, are cashing in big time. Some high-profile football players, basketball players, gymnasts, and others have inked million-dollar NIL deals, pitching everything from sports-betting websites, to apparel, restaurants, and beverages.  There’s also no shortage of opinions on whether or not it’s good for college sports, but I won’t debate that here.

However, when it comes to high school athletes, it’s a very different situation. Currently, there are only three states with confirmed permission for high school athletes to make NIL deals and all of them have substantial Native populations: California, Illinois, and North Dakota. 

There are three more states (Maine, Utah, and Vermont) in which permission is perceived, but not confirmed. Perceived permission means that the high school athletic association by-laws in those states do not explicitly prohibit NIL. Translation: It’s not clear, so proceed at your own risk.

But pay attention! If you’re a high school athlete, slow down before rushing out to pitch your services to the local hardware store or Tribal casino. High school NIL athletes can earn only a fraction of their collegiate counterparts.

In North Dakota, for example, NIL compensation cannot exceed $300 — enough to treat a large family to a nice dinner in Bismarck. In Illinois, maximum NIL compensation is only $75. Who’s up for a trip to Culver’s for chocolate concrete mixers?

There are also rules in some states that prohibit high school athletes from wearing school uniforms or logos while making NIL appearances or mentioning a school’s name. So best to keep that jersey tucked away in your backpack or gym locker.

In some cases, a business might also choose to compensate an athlete with clothing or meals instead of cash. That’s fine, as long as the merchandise or food items aren’t valued at more than the compensation maximum.

For more details and to make sure you’re in full compliance with your state’s NIL by-laws, check with your state high school athletic association. It would be a shame to forfeit one’s athletic eligibility for a hoodie and a sack of cheeseburgers.

Ask Dr. Per Cap is a program funded by First Nations Development Institute with assistance from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. For more information, visit www.firstnations.org. To send a question to Dr. Per Cap, email askdrpercap@firstnations.org.