High School NIL: Where it’s Legal, and What it Means for High School Athletes

Kids these days seem to just be getting older even quicker now, don’t they?

In the wake of the new NIL laws, that’s not a completely misplaced feeling, seeing as high school kids as young as 16 are signing significant business deals with companies wanting to sponsor athletes.

And this is all thanks to legislation passed by the Supreme Court back in the summer of 2021. So how exactly did high school athlete brands and NIL deals come about, how is it progressing state by state, and what does it mean for high school athletes moving forward into their collegiate careers? Keep reading and you’ll be all the wiser for it.

A Brief Overview of the Relatively Short History of NIL

If you want the full-on tale of the Name, Image, and Likeness debate in the US, head on over to our NIL page to get the low down. But a quick run-through just in case you want the abridged version:

On June 30, 2021, the Supreme Court of the US ruled in favor of student athletes profiting off of their Name, Image, and Likenesses. The very next day saw a massive wave of states push through their own individual laws seeking to provide college athletes with the opportunity to profit off of their success.

Since then, we’ve seen already-famous college athletes become millionaires, as well as athletes that don’t really have a platform, help businesses with small-scale micro-influencer marketing initiatives.
How We Got Here

High School Athletes and NIL

There was (and still is) a debate about whether or not college athletes are too young to be approached by companies wanting to sponsor athletes. So most certainly you can rest assured that there’s a debate around whether or not high school athletes should enter the NIL partnership scene.

Following the paradigm of the national controversy and the leave-it-up-to-the-states ruling of the Supreme Court, each state has taken its own approach to legalizing high school NIL partnerships. Let’s take a look at some of them:
California
California claims the title of having the first NIL deal signed by a high school football player. Jaden Rashada, who is eighteen years old, is promoting the Athletes in Recruitment (AIR) app on his Instagram and Twitter pages.
New York
New York made high school NIL deals legal in October, shortly after California’s legalization. New York allows their high school athletes to enjoy all the same benefits of an NIL partnership as their collegiate athletes.

In December, New York had their first high school athletes enter into an NIL partnership. Both Ian Jackson and Boogie Fland signed a deal with Spreadshop, an online platform that allows content creators and athletes to sell their own merchandise.
New Jersey
In November, New Jersey’s State Interscholastic Athletic Association followed New York and California and changed its rules to allow high school athletes to take advantage of their NILs.
Texas
Texas has by far the most interesting NIL deal of the states on this list. They prohibited high school athletes from profiting off of their NILs, but a high school athlete named Quinn Ewers found an interesting way around that.

Knowing there were huge NIL opportunities waiting for him on the other side of school, Ewers chose to forego his senior year of high school and instead begin playing at Ohio State right out of his junior year.

This brings up questions of the true efficacy of Texas’s law prohibiting high school athletes from signing NIL deals. Is it really the best move when it could be the reason they skip a year of school? Should Texas just give in and change their laws to match the pulse of their state?

Michigan, Ohio, and Oregon
All have planned upcoming discussions on whether or not an NIL partnership should be legal for a high school athlete, so only time will tell if the high school athletes in these states will be able to partner with companies wanting to sponsor athletes.

What Percentage of High School Athletes Play College Sports?

Statistics show that only a little more than 7% of high school athletes go on to play sports after high school. Only around 2% of high school athletes go on to play in NCAA Division I Schools.
Since so few high school athletes actually go on to play in college, is letting them profit off of their NILs before they quit more to their benefit?

On the flip side, let’s consider the attitude around high school versus college sports. Needless to say, it’s a wild difference. College sports, especially those at D1 schools, is a step up to the nth degree from high school athletics.

And you can see that in the reason kids cite for participating in high school sports. 81% of high school students say that their number one motivation to play their sport is to have fun, and 79% of them cite exercise as a reason. Will the increase in legality for high school athletes to profit off of their NILs detract from the very reason these individuals play sports in the first place?

These are all important questions to keep in mind, but ultimately, states and school entities will do what they want. And the fact of the matter is that there is a whole lot of money to be made with both collegiate and high school NIL partnerships, and Icon Source is a great place to start preparing for a successful athlete brand track.

Icon Source and High School Athletes

High school athletes who are interested in playing their sport in college should start preparing for NIL deals now, no matter if your state has legalized it or not.

Start thinking about who you are, how you represent yourself, and which brand’s values you feel like you align with. This will not only help you land an NIL partnership in the future, but it will also help with your personal development as an athlete and a young adult.

Here at Icon Source, we help college-age and pro athletes connect and build relationships with brands that match who they are and what their message is. We do not work with high school athletes, but we are more than happy to offer educational resources, such as our NIL hub, for those thinking about continuing their career in college and beyond.

And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Icon Source. We are so excited for the opportunities available today to both college and high school athletes alike.
Drew Butler

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