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Archive for July 11, 2021

July 11, 2021 — Into the wild wild West

Yesterday, a message appeared on my Twitter feed. Have a look:

Yep, that’s Erin Matson, the two-time Honda Award winner in field hockey and still a current University of North Carolina student-athlete, making an endorsement for an athletic supply company. But because of the new dynamics surrounding the uses of a player’s name, likeness, and image (NLI), the nation’s most prominent field hockey player is able to make a sponsorship deal.

It’s only about 11 days since NLI regulations have taken effect, and there’s a bit of a “wild West” atmosphere as all manner of college athletes have been forming deals with various companies. People from coast to coast have been named in stories about the opening of this new frontier in sports sponsorships.

I’m a little concerned, however, about how some of these companies are attached to sports betting. As I mentioned three years ago, college athletes being linked with sports books and casinos is a recipe for disaster. College athletes are supposed to be amateurs. But we all know that some revenue sport participants are often given benefits over and above those of regular students at these colleges.

Many student-athletes live in their own dormitories, right next to training facilities. Some expenses are covered by boosters or wealthy donors. Many of these expenses skirt the boundaries of what is permissible and what is not. Some, as in the case of convicted felon Nevin Shapiro, crash right through any boundaries whatsoever.

When football players participate in bowl games, they are given “goodie bags” which include electronics, backpacks, watches, and even cowboy hats, as long as they are under a certain value; in 2019, that value was $550.

With NLI deals, will this kind of corruption threaten the very integrity of college sports?

It’s going to be interesting to see.