NIL Momentum Increasing For High School Athletes

Although only a handful of state laws and state high school sports associations explicitly allow high school student athletes to monetize their name, image and likeness at this time, we’re increasingly see states and associations grant approval and high school athletes sign NIL deals. This week alone has seen three top football and basketball prospects sign their first deals in California and New York.

State laws and rules vary greatly

Alaska, California, Nebraska, New Jersey, and New York are currently the states where it’s clear all high school student athletes in the state can profit from their NIL activities. In other states, high school students who attend private schools or academies are often allowed if they aren’t subject to the state high school association, but in a few states laws prohibit NIL across the board for high school athletes.

Texas was highlighted for its language prohibiting high school athletes from profiting in the same bill in which college athletes were granted NIL rights when top recruit Quinn Ewers chose to forego his senior year of high school and enroll at Ohio State early in order to sign NIL deals he’d been offered.

In October, New York joined California as only the second state to allow high school athletes the same rights as their college counterparts. In November, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association followed suit and amended its rules. The Nebraska School Activities Association is the latest, approving a change in its previous prohibition on NIL at its December board meeting per Opendorse, which is tracking this legislation.

State high school associations in quite a few states, including Michigan, Ohio and Oregon, all have upcoming discussions or votes on allowing NIL activities for high school athletes. Meanwhile, we’re seeing top prospects in football and men’s basketball increasingly sign deals in the few states that allow it.

Deals with high school athletes are heating up

Earlier this week, Jaden Rashada became the first high school football player to publicly announce an NIL deal. Back in October, highly-ranked prospect Mikey Williams was the youngest athlete to sign with PUMA Hoops. Although Williams lives in North Carolina, whose state high school association prohibits NIL deals, he plays for a private academy and is not subject to those rules.

New York’s first high school athletes sign NIL deals

Also in December, two of the top basketball prospects in New York have signed NIL deals with online platform Spreadshop, which allows creators and athletes to create their own merchandise. Bronx natives Ian Jackson and Boogie Fland are the first two high school athletes in New York to land NIL deals. The sophomores will each receive four figures for the next six month sin exchange for one social post per week.

“Spreadshop sees NIL as an opportunity to empower all young athletes,” said Spreadshop’s North American business development manager, Zack Bowman. “As the conversation continues to progress on college athlete NIL, it was important for Spreadshop to jumpstart the discussion on high school NIL.”

“When I first heard about NIL I was excited for high school players being able to get a chance to earn money from their name, image and likeness,” said Jackson. “I didn’t expect to actually be in a deal this early, but I’m excited that I was given the chance”

Jackson and Fland each have their own merchandise shops set up on Spreadshop already featuring their nicknames, “Captain Jack” and “Boogie,” respectively. Both are excited to partner with Spreadshop.

“I think Spreadshop is a good fit for me to promote because it gives me a chance to show my creativity off the court through clothing and gives people a chance to know that creative side of me,” said Jackson.

“…[Spreadshop] offers that exposure with business and just me as a whole,” said Fland. “It allows an opportunity to do a new thing and I feel the relationship between me and the Spreadshop crew is strong and we fit as one.”

Bowman says his brand chose Jackson and Fland because they mirrored Spreadshop’s core values.

“They show empowerment, determination and the desire to positively impact their communities and the world around them. Aside from being two of the top high school basketball players, they are well liked by teachers, coaches, classmates, friends and their communities. New York City has a long history of basketball icons and these two have a chance to be the next legends to come out of New York City.”

Jackson says he hopes to continue to grow his personal brand while in high school. “Hopefully more opportunities come.”

Fland says he’s not trying to rush things. “I will deal with the deals as they come, but when those deals do come, I hope to do new things and experience different opportunities.”

Bowman’s advice to other high school student athletes who are thinking about ways to grow their brand and monetize their NIL is to think long-term.

“Instant gratification is nice and something everyone wants, but look at the big picture and sustainability. Look for those deals that align with your morals and your passions—the deals that will have an impact on your family, community and future.”

2021 was the year of the college athlete when it came to name, image and likeness rights. Perhaps 2022 be the year of the high school athlete.

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