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Leveling the Playing Field: The Case for NIL Rights for International Student-Athletes

Posted by Paul Saluja | May 04, 2024 | 0 Comments

In the fast-paced world of collegiate sports, the spotlight often shines brightest on star athletes who captivate audiences with their skill and prowess on the court or field. Names like Zach Edey and Mohamed Diarra have become synonymous with success, leading their teams to glory in the NCAA tournament and beyond. However, behind the scenes, a glaring disparity exists, one that threatens to undermine the very principles of fairness and equity that collegiate athletics strive to uphold.

At Saluja Law, we are deeply concerned about the inequitable treatment faced by international student-athletes like Zach Edey and Mohamed Diarra when it comes to profiting from their own name, image, and likeness (NIL). Despite their remarkable talents and contributions to their teams, these athletes find themselves at a distinct disadvantage compared to their American counterparts. As it stands, international students are largely barred from NIL opportunities due to their visa status, relegating them to the sidelines while their teammates reap the financial rewards of endorsement deals and sponsorships.

The recent introduction of the Name, Image, and Likeness for International Collegiate Athletes Act represents a crucial step towards addressing this issue. Sponsored by Rep. Valerie Foushee and Rep. Mike Flood, this bipartisan legislation aims to create a pathway for international student-athletes to pursue NIL opportunities without jeopardizing their visa status. By establishing a sub-category within the F-1 visa tailored specifically for these athletes, the bill seeks to level the playing field and ensure that all collegiate athletes, regardless of nationality, have the opportunity to benefit from their own likeness.

The need for such legislation is underscored by the experiences of athletes like Zach Edey and Mohamed Diarra, whose potential earnings are hindered by outdated regulations that fail to account for the realities of modern collegiate athletics. As Rep. Foushee rightly points out, there are more than 150 international student-athletes in her district alone, representing a sizable portion of the NCAA's diverse talent pool. Denying these athletes the opportunity to capitalize on their NIL not only deprives them of much-needed income but also perpetuates a system of inequality that undermines the principles of fairness and opportunity.

At Saluja Law, we believe that every athlete deserves the chance to benefit from their own hard work and dedication, regardless of their country of origin. That is why we fully support the Name, Image, and Likeness for International Collegiate Athletes Act and urge lawmakers to swiftly enact this important legislation. By doing so, we can ensure that international student-athletes like Zach Edey and Mohamed Diarra are given the same opportunities as their peers to thrive both on and off the field.

In closing, we echo the sentiments of Zac Hiller, owner of Loyalty Above All, who aptly states, "It doesn't matter if you're from Zimbabwe or Canada. If you're working for a school here, playing a sport, you deserve to be compensated, because it's your time that you're giving up for that program." Let us come together to support our international student-athletes and uphold the values of fairness, equality, and opportunity that lie at the heart of collegiate athletics.

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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