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Diverging Paths in NIL for High School Athletes

Posted by Paul Saluja | Jun 14, 2024

In the ever-evolving landscape of high school sports, recent developments in Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) rights highlight the stark contrasts in approaches taken by different states. While some states embrace new opportunities for student-athletes to profit from their NIL, others remain steadfast in their restrictions. South Dakota and North Carolina provide clear examples of these differing philosophies.

South Dakota Embraces NIL

On Wednesday, the South Dakota High School Activities Association (SDHSAA) Board of Directors voted to approve NIL rights for high school athletes. This groundbreaking decision will allow student-athletes to earn money through public appearances, social media posts, and other promotional activities.

“Well, income is always good, and when they have time to work as well with balancing the busy, busy lives of being a student-athlete, it's good for them. And it's good exposure,” said Matt Christensen, head football coach at Brandon Valley.

However, the new ruling comes with strict guidelines: schools cannot be involved in the athletes' NIL ventures. “We stay out of this one, and that's the right way to go with the schools, staying out of it, not being mentioned,” Christensen added.

For former high school athletes like Devon Richards, now playing football at the University of Sioux Falls, the ruling could boost local pride and support. “Having support from them financially as well, when you can put yourself out, market yourself out, I think that just helps the town grow,” Richards said.

Despite the positive outlook, Christensen acknowledged potential drawbacks, such as distractions from team responsibilities. The responsibility falls on student-athletes, coaches, and programs to maintain focus on team goals.

Looking ahead, John Hart, the athletics director at the University of Sioux Falls, expressed hope that NIL opportunities would continue into college. “I don't want those things to slow down. I want to be able to help promote and help those things to continue at the next level if they are getting them in high school,” Hart said.

Athletes must also adhere to specific restrictions, such as not using team logos, facilities, or promoting illegal substances and activities.

North Carolina's Firm Stance Against NIL

Contrasting South Dakota's progressive stance, North Carolina remains firm in prohibiting NIL activities for high school athletes. Despite the NCAA's landmark decision allowing college athletes to profit from their NIL, which has influenced many states to adopt similar measures for high school athletes, North Carolina's Board of Education recently reaffirmed its prohibition during meetings held from June 5-6.

The restrictions in North Carolina encompass a wide range of NIL activities, including public appearances, commercials, autograph signings, athletic camps, clinics, NFTs, product endorsements, and promotional activities both in-person and online. As a result, public high school athletes in North Carolina are barred from engaging in these profit-generating activities.

This prohibition could have significant implications for high school sports in North Carolina. Families might relocate to states with more favorable NIL policies, leading to a potential exodus of top talent and affecting the competitiveness of local high school sports programs.

Interestingly, the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association (NCISS) allows private school athletes to profit from their NIL while maintaining eligibility. This discrepancy could drive some top athletes to transfer from public to private schools within the state.

The ruling has already sparked reactions from prominent athletes and their families. Faizon Brandon, a 5-star quarterback and the No. 2 ranked player in North Carolina, expressed his hope for a change in the law through social media. Similarly, Thomas Davis, a former Carolina Panthers linebacker, and parent of a public school athlete, voiced his frustration over the unequal treatment, advocating for a fair system that either allows NIL for all high school athletes or restricts it uniformly.

The Ongoing Debate

The contrasting approaches to NIL in South Dakota and North Carolina underscore the complexities of this evolving issue. As states navigate these changes, the differing policies will continue to influence where athletes choose to play and develop their careers.

Stay informed on the latest developments in NIL by following Saluja Law's blog.

About the Author

Paul Saluja

Paul Saluja is a distinguished legal professional with over two decades of experience serving clients across a spectrum of legal domains. Graduating from West Virginia State University in 1988 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry, he continued his academic journey at Ohio Northern University, gr...

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