High school athletes cash in big off NIL deals
The adoption of NIL upended the college sports landscape, but it also quietly opened the door for high school athletes to begin cashing in.
Driving the news: Nike recently signed its first high school NIL deal, inking Harvard-Westlake (Los Angeles) soccer players and sisters, Alyssa and Gisele Thompson, to a multiyear agreement.
- Mikey Williams, a five-star basketball prospect, was among the first to strike last fall when he signed with Puma.
- Others include NYC basketball players Johnuel Fland and Ian Jackson and Louisiana wrestler Richie Clementi.
State of play: High school guidelines are determined by each state's athletic association, and similar to college, athlete endorsements can't be affiliated with their school.
- Nine states sanction high school NIL: Alaska, California, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York and Utah.
- Ohio voted against a measure last week, with one AD saying that "too many people were uncomfortable with the situation."
What they're saying: Many high schoolers are "brilliant entrepreneurs at a young age ... and the NIL opportunities are good ways for them to make a business out of something they do really well," Karissa Niehoff, CEO of the National Federation of State High School Associations, tells Axios.
- Yes, but: Niehoff says the NFHS is "extremely concerned" about the possibility of the school uniform, the logo, ever becoming part of an NIL deal.
- The purpose of high school sports, she says, "has never been for a young person to earn money ... It's for learning, growth and development, being part of a community. We hope that never gets compromised."
Between the lines: A similar opportunity for elite high school athletes to earn money arrived last fall when Overtime Elite (OTE) launched and offered basketball stars six-figure salaries. But while those teenagers forfeited their NCAA eligibility, high schoolers signing NIL deals do not.
The big picture: The vast majority of high school athletes won't land NIL deals, which are reserved mostly for the elite of the elite — teenage phenoms with national profiles and massive social media followings.
- Williams, mentioned above, has an NIL valuation of $2.6 million thanks to his nearly six million followers on Instagram and TikTok.
- Six other basketball players, and at least 100 football players, have NIL valuations over $100,000, per college sports database On3.
The big question: Is it healthy for athletes to focus on marketing at such a young age? It's a fair question. That said, 9-year-olds are making millions on YouTube. Why should athletes be shut out from that world?