It is an admirable move by the UI athletic department to provide a marketing platform — in this case Opendorse — to help student-athletes maximize earning potential ... within acceptable limits.
Limits? What limits? Therein lies the chaos of unintended consequences as name, image, likeness legislation is unveiled. A crash landing is likely when “they’re building it as they’re flying it.”
On one hand, we see Illini basketball super-senior Trent Frazier making a modest arrangement with Gopuff delivery service, Cameo and others: “I am enjoying sending special messages, birthday wishes and some motivation talk with all of Illini Nation,” Frazier tweeted on Thursday afternoon.
The fans in Miami are cheering a deal, in which a training company will pay each of 90 Hurricane football players $500 per month for their endorsements via their social-media accounts and personal appearances.
That comes to a $540,000 investment in Miami football by one company, American Top Team.
The grapevine is spewing rumors of that much and more for a single college transfer ... while it’s also confirmed that high school junior Jalen Lewis, age 16, is accepting a $1 million pro contract with the Overtime Elite League.
What is too much? What extreme deals are being cooked up by fan-marketers in Illinois and Kentucky for Kofi Cockburn? What should we think when LSU, Auburn and others — those awaiting overdue sanctions — make inquiries?
We’re told that a fan or group paying him $20,000 for an autographed picture would draw an internal “red flag” from the UI.
OK. What’s extreme? What quality, beyond her father’s connection with O.J. Simpson, made Kim Kardashian worth $1 billion?
Explain how hip-hop mogul Master P’s son, Tennessee State basketball freshman Hercy Miller, is suddenly receiving $2 million over four years for his endorsement of Web Apps America, a software development company.
It feels like the under-table payments of the past are simply moving to the top?
Many female athletes have large social-media followings, most notably Fresno State basketball twins Haley and Hanna Cavinder with 3.9 million fans on TikTok, and 500,000 on Instagram. They’re already cashing in big time.
And then — OK, this isn’t sports — mainstream rapper Cardi B has more than 100 million followers on Instagram and YouTube, and is taking in $9.4 million per month.
Repeat, per month.
And that is less than half what X-rated Blac Chyna draws with her $19.99 monthly fee.
How much is too much?
If Blac Chyna makes $250 million this year for essentially posing, tell me what is too much.
Who can predict the ultimate legal opinion when Cockburn autographs that glossy? Should it be $10, $100, $1,000 or $10,000? The university may have a perceived “fair market value,” but the next judge may not.
And then we have the UI’s parameters that deny athletes’ names connected with tobacco, liquor, etc. Will these limitations pass legal scrutiny? If the DIA can sell alcohol at games, what law prevents a 21-year-old athlete from joining the income party with his endorsement?
More questions than answers
There aren’t many answers here, just questions that must be adjudicated as we enter the era of the empowered athlete. Discard “amateur” from your vocabulary.
We have the free-wheeling transfer market where Marquette transfer Dawson Garcia, at one point considering Illinois, just received a North Carolina offer he couldn’t refuse.
We have Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s strongly-worded postscript that the Supreme Court may look favorably on student-athlete remuneration beyond educational needs. And forced by state assemblies, the NCAA has grudgingly presented college athletes with a world of money-making possibilities, particularly in the untapped sector of social media.
It makes a fellow wonder: What the repercussions might be when the next old-school coach tells his freshmen that they (1) must drop social media and (2) can’t speak to journalists. Does this limit their earning power?
Would a judge declare this legal?
Yep, it’s a new world with magistrates overruling all manner of NCAA regulations and siding with the players.
Hang on tight.
Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.