Just a day before March Madness started, the biggest NCAA event of the year, college basketball players tweeted out “#NotNCAAPropterty” in protest of the NCAA denying them the ability to profit out their name, image and likeness (NIL) and for their service on the court.
NCAA President Mark Emmert and the rest of the organization had previously agreed to finally allow student-athletes to benefit from their talents and efforts. Nearly two years later, that promise is left unfilled.
Due to the delay, student-athletes continue to voice their frustrations.
“There’s really no reason why it can’t happen almost immediately,” former Michigan defensive back Hunter Reynolds told The Daily back in August. “In my opinion … they are trying to drag it as long as possible to … tone it down and keep as much control as possible, and by virtue, as much money as possible.”
The protest on Twitter prior to the NCAA Tournament was just one occurrence of the unrest players feel. The leaders of that movement — Michigan senior forward Isaiah Livers, Rutgers guard Geo Baker and Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon — did in fact meet with Emmert. But, little came of it.
“Our meeting was the same thing he’s doing in the public,” Bohannon told ESPN. “A lot of talk and he’s waiting on Congress to decide on legislation.”
The angst to get these rules passed is mainly rooted in the financial benefit — like getting a small piece of the $800 million pie that the NCAA Tournament generates — but there is more to it than that. Throughout the summer, student-athletes of every sport, race, gender and ethnicity pitched their support for racial equality. They used their social media and their platform to speak out.
“Athletes need to learn they have a voice and don’t need to be suppressed, because they signed a contract to a university,” Livers told The Daily in November. “ … At the end of the day, people are always going to see us as athletes, so that’s why we need more athletes to speak up.”
Opinions on student-athletes varied widely, but it is not something new. For a while athletes have built their brands, whether it be on social media or through their play-styles on the court or field.
“The days of ‘Shut Up and Dribble’ should be long, long gone,” Michigan Regent Jordan Acker (D) told The Daily. “The more that student-athletes are able to express themselves creatively, politically (or) whichever way they choose to use their platforms. I think it is really helpful.”
They did not need the approval of the NCAA to show their personality and stick out. Student-athletes are not requesting that. They simply want the support.
When asked about what role the University of Michigan would play if NIL rules were passed, Acker simply responded that they would treat student-athletes the same way they treat any other student.
He added: “Those of us who are lucky enough to have these sorts of platforms have to use them, in that way though, to make the student experience fairer because that’s ultimately (what) this is about. It’s not really about me. It’s about making sure that this system which is not fair becomes more fair.”
The University’s main mission is to support its students. Despite some differences in opinion among the administration, Acker stated that there is a “general consensus” of individuals — including President Mark Schlissel and Athletic Director Warde Manuel — to support the student-athlete community.
The actual rules and laws are yet to be decided, but regardless, it is a priority to make them fair to all athletes no matter their sport, gender or ethnicity.
“There’s going to have to be lots of discussion about how the money comes in and how do we make sure that we don’t create more ‘haves’ than ‘have nots,’ both from campus to campus, as well as within our own campus,” Acker said. “But ultimately, I think there are going to be different incentives and one of them is going to be creativity and that alone may balance the field a little bit.”
Name, image and likeness rules already passed in the NAIA and already showing positive results.
For example, Aquinas College volleyball player Chloe Mitchell broke ground, earning the first sponsorship deal for $3,000 from a beverage company called Smart Cups.
It is not a shattering amount but it is a start. Mitchell has already amassed over five thousand followers on YouTube, around 50 thousand followers on Instagram and an astounding 2.6 million followers on TikTok.
Her sponsorship with Smart Cups will barely make a dent in tuition, but as stated in the CNBC article, she hopes that eventually she can leverage her platform into paying for school and maybe even a career one day.
ESPN estimates that top student-athletes could turn profit anywhere from a couple thousand dollars — like Mitchell — to even a million for the few top-tier athletes. Livers, Bohannon and Baker would likely fall in between $5-to-$20 thousand in ESPN’s estimation.
These rules have the potential to truly change the lives of student-athletes, financially and beyond. Without the NCAA’s help though, that won’t be possible.