BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Roughly a year after the NCAA began allowing college athletes to profit off of their name, image and likeness, some Indiana universities are now offering legal assistance to those students as they navigate endorsement deals.
Legal experts say there’s still a lot of uncertainty about name, image and likeness deals for college athletes, despite the fast-growing nature of the business. Indiana University athletes are seeing it firsthand, according to Rebecca Pany, senior associate athletic director.
“A ton of gift-in-kind deals, a ton of social media deals, Instagram, TikTok influencer type things,” Pany said.
Pany has been working to educate IU’s roughly 700 student-athletes about these endorsement deals. Now, a new program at IU offers them legal guidance from law students and professors.
“Our student-athletes are receiving contracts that they’re not super familiar with,” Pany said. “They’re not super high dollar value sometimes, and I think that they all want somebody to review it.”
So far, 29 states have passed laws regulating NIL deals, according to the National Law Review. Some of those laws include additional restrictions to NIL agreements, while others simply give college athletes the right to enter into these deals.
Indiana doesn’t have a law of its own regarding these endorsements for student-athletes. That leaves it to the NCAA and colleges to decide what’s allowed, said Mark Janis, director of the IU Center for Intellectual Property Research and a professor at the IU Maurer School of Law.
“The universities are in the driver’s seat,” Janis said.
We reached out to multiple state lawmakers for this story, including members of leadership. Several declined our requests for interviews, saying they don’t know enough about NIL deals.
Name, image and likeness legislation hasn’t been proposed in Indiana, and so far, there are no discussions about introducing a bill next session.
Janis said it’s unclear what a potential law in Indiana or at the federal level could look like.
“I think that there needs to be a wider discussion about what really is needed by way of guardrails,” he said.
So far, the lack of a state law hasn’t presented any problems at IU, Pany said.
“We get to stick to our policy and the NCAA rules, and I think that it’s really less confusing for student-athletes,” Pany said.
There have been calls for federal legislation surrounding endorsement deals for student-athletes, but so far none of the proposals in Congress have been able to advance.