College Athlete NIL Activities and Institutional Agreements at a Crossroads: An Analysis of the Regulatory Landscape and “Conflict Language” in State NIL Legislation
Keywords:NIL, name, image, likeness, college athlete, statutory interpretation, NIL legislation
State legislation paved the way for college athletes to begin monetizing their name, image, and likeness (NIL) through commercial activities as of July 2021. However, the statutory language utilized in state NIL legislation provides an inconsistent regulatory framework for college athletes as they seek to navigate the NIL landscape. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to conduct a comparative legal analysis of state NIL legislation to determine how these statutes restrain college athlete NIL activities that conflict with institutional agreements, limit NIL activities during official team activities, and establish enforcement or dispute resolution processes for asserted conflicts. We analyzed 26 state NIL statutes containing specific conflict language and found three areas of significant variation between states: the regulatory framework used to define contractual restraints; the definition and treatment of contract types subject to potential conflicts with NIL activities; and the requirements placed upon an institution when a contractual dispute arises. We discuss these areas of discrepancy between state NIL legislations and offer recommendations for legislatures focused on creating an NIL environment for college athletes with minimal restraints.