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Embracing the Change: High School Athletes and NIL Rights

Posted by Paul Saluja | Jun 09, 2024

At Saluja Law, we are excited to witness the transformative changes sweeping across high school athletics, empowering young athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness (NIL). This wave of new rules, which has already revolutionized college sports, is now making significant strides at the high school level. States from New York to California and, most recently, Florida are backing student-athletes in this paradigm shift, signaling a new era for high school sports.

Florida Joins the Movement

Florida is now among over 30 states, including the District of Columbia, that have given high school athletes the green light to capitalize on NIL opportunities. These changes come with stringent guardrails to ensure a balanced and protective approach, requiring parents or guardians to be involved in any NIL deal. This involvement is crucial in safeguarding the interests of young athletes as they navigate these new opportunities.

A Significant and Rewarding Moment for Athletes

For standout wide receiver Vernell Brown III from Orlando, this shift is both significant and rewarding. As one of the top high school recruits in the country, Brown's perspective resonates deeply with the spirit of these changes. "Just like collegiate athletes and professional athletes who put that time in working hard, I think high school athletes put that in as well," Brown told NBC News. "They're grinding to get to that next level, so I definitely think there should be some benefit ... that pays off for their hard work and ultimately gives us a financial jump-start in life."

Brown has already narrowed his list of college suitors to prestigious programs like Ohio State, Florida State, and the University of Miami and has inked a deal with Adidas. He joins six other high-profile high school players in an agreement that Adidas has proudly promoted on social media, marking its first partnership with high school football athletes.

Ensuring Fair Play with Guardrails and Checks

Although these deals cannot go into effect until the Florida State Board of Education ratifies the new rules in July, Brown remains optimistic. "I'm extremely grateful for it," he said. "I think it definitely means more being on the forefront [of NIL in Florida]."

Florida's NIL rules are meticulously designed to prevent abuse and ensure fair play. These bylaws cover the types of products students can endorse, prohibiting endorsements of alcohol, gambling, and vaping. Additionally, collectives used at the collegiate level to lure top players with lucrative deals are banned. Students transferring high schools must obtain an exemption from the county if they wish to sign another NIL deal, aimed at preventing unfair competition.

The Broader Impact of NIL in High School Sports

The reach and demand for high school athletics are evident in events like "OT7," a 7-on-7 All-Star league showcasing talent from across the country. The NFL Network airs the league's championship games live, complete with professional-level video production, highlighting the growing visibility of high school sports.

Vernell Brown Jr., Brown's father and a former college athlete who now manages and mentors Indianapolis Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson, has seen firsthand how NIL rights have reshaped sports at various levels. He believes these deals can be life-changing for families who have invested so much in their child's development and for the athletes who have worked tirelessly.

"When you look at families and specifically the population of the NFL, it's predominantly African American athletes. So I think having this opportunity to kind of set yourself up and then your family ... there's obviously the financial piece with NIL, but I think just the platform is [also] bringing more notice," Brown Jr. explained.

The Importance of Representation and Financial Literacy

Brown Jr. emphasizes the importance of financial literacy and understanding the tax implications of signing endorsement deals. "I think it's important to have representation and somebody to help you with an agreement and make sure you understand what you're signing. The parents definitely need to be involved," he said.

The deals are typically structured to last one year or until the player enrolls in college, ensuring no conflict with college programs sponsored by different or competing brands. "They're completely separate entities," Brown Jr. clarified. "That's why it's a one-year deal."

Looking Ahead: A New Era for High School Athletics

For now, the 5-foot-11 Vernell Brown III, a rising senior who models his game after NFL stars like Stefon Diggs and Zay Flowers, is focused on his on-field performance. Playing for South Florida Express, an elite club team with numerous NFL alumni, Brown is experiencing a meteoric rise through the OT7 games.

"No matter the stage, it's still football," Brown remarked. But when asked whether this stage is a game-changer for NIL and building a brand, his response was clear: "Absolutely."


At Saluja Law, we fully embrace the NIL revolution in high school athletics. This shift represents a significant step forward, empowering young athletes and their families while ushering in a new era of opportunity and visibility in sports. As states like Florida continue to implement and refine these rules, the future of high school sports looks brighter than ever. We are committed to supporting student-athletes and their families as they navigate this exciting new landscape.

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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