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NAIA Passes Name, Image, and Likeness Legislation

By Justin Sievert

As college athletics awaits the NCAA’s proposed modifications to its name, image, and likeness legislation, the NAIA has become the first intercollegiate athletics governing body to pass legislation permitting athletes compensation for the use of their name, image, and likeness. The legislation allows NAIA athletes to receive compensation for the use of the athlete’s name, image or likeness to promote any commercial product or enterprise, or for any public or media appearance. Should an athlete exercise these rights, the athlete is responsible for notifying their institution’s director of athletics in writing of any compensation the athlete receives.

Of note, the legislation also permits the NAIA to amend legislation in situations where state or federal law render compliance with NAIA amateur regulations impossible. For example, if a state were to pass legislation that provides additional protections to athletes not afforded by the NAIA or that conflicts with NAIA legislation, the NAIA would be able to amend its NIL legislation to avoid member institutions and athletes in one state from being afforded opportunities athletes in other states would not have. NAIA athletes would also be permitted to engage representation to help negotiate any agreements that may fall under this legislation.

Examples of Potential NIL Opportunities for NAIA Athletes

  • Compensation for participation in a movie, show, or commercial (including participating in their sport in the appearance)
  • Compensation for promoting a product (e.g., sporting goods, apparel, supplements, etc.) or selling a product while leveraging their status as an athlete
  • Compensation for offering lessons in the athlete’s sport, including referencing the athlete’s status at the institution or using an image of the athlete in the institution’s apparel in advertising the lessons
  • Compensation for social media advertisements (i.e., being an “influencer,” creating videos on YouTube and being compensated off of channel advertisements, etc.)
  • Compensation for signing autographs

NAIA Member Considerations

While the NAIA offers far fewer guardrails and institutional obligations than what is expected from the NCAA’s proposal later this fall, NAIA members should still be cognizant of potential legal issues. For example, if an NAIA institution plans on creating a framework for assisting athletes in these endeavors, how will this impact the institution’s compliance with equitable treatment obligations under Title IX? If an athlete signs an apparel agreement to endorse a direct competitor with an institutional sponsor, will exclusivity rights be breached? If an athlete appears in a commercial that endorses a product or service that conflicts with the values of the institution, will the athlete be subjected to institutional disciplinary procedures? By addressing these issues up-front, NAIA institutions will be better positioned to aid athletes in maximizing these rights, while avoiding potential internal headaches.

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Posted in Name, Image, Likeness
Justin Sievert
Justin Sievert is Senior Counsel at Vela Wood and chairs the firm’s sports and compliance practice group. His practice focuses on contract drafting and negotiation, marketing and promotions compliance, NCAA compliance matters, and Title IX. You can see Justin's attorney profile here.