KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In the summer of 2021, the NCAA adopted a name, image and likeness policy. It was the first time that student athletes had the opportunity to benefit from their image.
College athletes still cannot get paid to play, but almost anything else is fair game.
For eligible athletes, they could make a deal to sign a few autographs, pose for photos at your next event, or even post a selfie online for sponsors. Each one of those actions comes with a price.
To give you context from different perspectives, we’re going “360” on the topic.
In this story, you’ll hear from:
- A former student athlete
- An NIL online marketplace
- A contract lawyer
- A local business who’s making deals with athletes
Gloria Mutiri is a professional volleyball player in Puerto Rico. She started her collegiate career at Kansas State, but later transferred to Oregon. As soon as she could jump into the new NIL revenue stream, she did.
“I think right now student athletes kind of think it’s a fun, you can post a little brand and have something to post on Instagram and as serious as you take it is as serious as it will be for you,” she said.
“NIL to me is like, if you put your work in you are going to get work out from it,” she continued. “That was exciting to me because I knew I could always bring hand work to the table and it was so rewarding.”
The financial stability is something she desperately needed for herself and her four sisters. Mutiri’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from the Democratic Republic of Congo. They grew up in churches across the country with their father as a pastor and minister.
After his passing, her family struggled, and at one point without a home. Her mother died a few years later, forcing the sisters to enter foster care.
“I think a good way to describe most of my teenage years was just very full of turmoil and there were a lot of things going on,” Mutiri said, “I think being where I am now, I forget sometimes how much it all was and looking back I am like, ‘wow’. Sometimes it feels more like a story than something that happened to you. So the recap makes you realize, wow I really lived through that.”
Volleyball gave Mutiri a platform she used to explore the NIL space. Her dedication to partnering with brands set her up for success. She’s living on the money she made in college… and is now planning to buy a home so her family never goes without again.
“Being financially stable adds so much more stability to my life and just comfort. I can honestly relax. Money is not a stress factor for me anymore like it was when I was younger,” Mutiri said.
Online NIL Marketplace
Athletes and businesses can make deals in just about anywhere, including online. Universities, including the University of Missouri and University of Kansas, use marketplaces like Opendorse.
“Just like a craft maker might use etsy.com to sell their crafts and wears, an athlete uses Opendorse.com to sell their NIL deals,” Blake Lawrence, Opendorse CEO and Co-founder, said.
The site gives sponsors access to thousands of athletes. Their price per post or pitch is clearly marked. There’s a patent-pending algorithm that calculates the worth of each deal.
Opendorse CEO and co-founder Blake Lawrence was in their position back in 2008-09. As a linebacker at Nebraska, he knows what the life of a student athletes looks like, but sustaining repeated concussions on the gridiron caused a short end to his college football career and he was permanently sidelined.
“My journey came to an end abruptly. For most athletes that is true. You don’t quite know when your last day playing sports will be and oftentimes it comes too soon,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence says since the NCAA approved NIL deals, his revenue has grown almost 10 times over. The company projects in the second year of NIL businesses will spend $1.14 Billion on athlete deals.
“It will become more of the norm. And once more athletes are a part of this ecosystem, then more athletes are going to be learning at an earlier age the importance of entrepreneurship and business and taking care of themselves,” Lawrence said.
Contracts are a large part of what keep deals running smoothly. Mit Winter is an attorney at Kennyhertz Perry, who are based in Mission Woods, Kansas. Winter was a former athlete who turned to sports law and is still staying busy with NIL contracts.
“Lately it has become most of my day, especially the last 3-4 months,” Winter said.
In the Midwest, this year athletes are projected to bring in more than $91 million. Winter is responsible for writing the contracts for a least $1 million of that projection, but not everyone puts their deals on paper.
“There are some deals that are happening with athletes and businesses or boosters of the school where they are not necessarily written down in a contract, but most deals are and in my opinion they should be,” he explained.
Winter says a contract protects both sides and lays out clear expectations. The amount of money in those deals depends on the type of person and player you are.
“If you are someone who has a lot of social media followers you may be able to get certain types of deals,” Winter continued. “But if you are also an athlete who is performing well on the field you are going to get other types of deals so it’s a balance, still, of those two things.”
There are a number of college athletes who now have their face and name on a T-shirt at Charlie Hustle.
The company’s founder and CEO, Chase McAnulty, says the excitement comes from exploration.
“It’s amazing. It’s the wild, wild west," McAnulty said, "So that’s fun for me as a kind of entrepreneurial minded person to go into something that’s completely unfamiliar and new and we get to give our own spin on things.”
Their first big go at a deal was a shirt with Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn.
“We sold out right away,” McAnulty beamed.
And the hits keep coming. Their top three T-shirts have netted almost $50,000 in the last six months.
“We are all fans, but being able to be fans of the players and supportive of them, especially at the college level is a pretty unique thing,” he said.
Their deals go beyond the most noticeable people on the field or court. Some players act as brand sponsors or influencers and the roles are ever-evolving.
"There is a lot of opportunity. For us, we are just kind of learning alongside the universities and the players,” McAnulty added.
As part of KSHB 41 News' commitment to providing context and depth in our reporting, we've excited to share our latest project, which we're calling 360. This project takes stories and topics that our communities are talking about and explores different perspectives on the issue. You can be a part of the process by e-mailing your ideas and thoughts to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.