More States Allow High School Athlete Endorsements

By: - May 9, 2022 12:00 am

Vertical Academy’s Mikey Williams plays in a high school basketball game earlier this year in Springfield, Mass. Williams, who has an endorsement deal with Puma, is among the first high school athletes to profit from name, image and likeness rights. Gregory Payan/The Associated Press

High school athletes in an increasing number of states are gaining the right to profit from endorsements, autographs and sponsorships.

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association became the latest governing body to approve name, image and likeness rights, known as NIL, for its athletes. The association announced last month that it was partnering with Eccker Sports Group, a company focused on providing NIL information for students and high schools, the Lafayette Daily Advertiser reported.

Eddie Bonine, the association’s executive director, called the decision “the right thing to do for all high school student-athletes in Louisiana.” In the statement announcing the vote, the group also emphasized the fast-changing nature of endorsement rules, saying the partnership with Eccker would help athletes and educators navigate them.

Ten states now allow endorsement deals for their high school athletes. The Colorado High School Activities Association voted in April to allow such rights for its players. While California has long allowed high school students to make money from endorsements, officials in Alaska, Kansas, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Utah and Vermont have enacted policy changes or clarifications in recent months to let high schoolers join the marketplace.

Ohio could be the next. The Ohio High School Athletic Association is conducting a referendum of school principals on a proposed bylaw that would allow endorsement deals. Voting, which began May 1, will conclude May 16. Ohio officials have been tracking a lawsuit against the Florida High School Athletic Association over its endorsement ban, according to JD Supra, and fear they cannot afford a similar legal fight. 

Another 12 state associations are currently considering their policies, according to Opendorse, a Nebraska-based marketing platform for athletes. The changes at the high school level come after a flurry of states passed laws in 2021 to allow college athletes to sign endorsements. 

But many states still prohibit high schoolers from marketing themselves, arguing that amateur sports should be about building character and other values, not profit. Some critics also fear that teenagers could get caught in exploitative deals.

The uneven landscape from state to state is likely to amplify the debate as more high school athletes gain rights and sign head-turning endorsement deals.

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Alex Brown
Alex Brown

Based in Seattle, Alex Brown covers environmental issues for Stateline. Prior to joining Stateline, Brown wrote for The Chronicle in Lewis County, Washington state.