Explaining Pennsylvania's New Name, Image and Likeness Legislation

Pennsylvania joins the growing list of states allowing college athletes to earn money from endorsements.
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Pennsylvania college athletes can sign endorsement deals and earn money beginning July 1, as Gov. Wolf signed legislation regarding name, image and likeness provisions in the commonwealth.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a bill June 25 that amended state law, commonly known as the School Code, to allow college athletes to earn compensation based on their name, image and likeness. Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday signed the state budget, which included the bill regarding athlete compensation.

"There is an immense amount of money surrounding college athletics, and the players that attract attention to their sports have not been fairly compensated for their skills and work," Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa said in a statement. "I’m pleased with the efficiency we worked with here at the state level to grant all the appropriate permissions for our athletes to be compensated in their upcoming seasons."

What does NIL legislation mean for college athletes?

The legislation allows Pennsylvania athletes to earn money through endorsements, autograph sessions, sponsorships and other means without penalty or loss of eligibility. Athletes can sign agents and register with companies that handle branding and licensing.

The legislation prevents the NCAA and other college governing bodies from restricting the eligibility of teams whose athletes have endorsement deals. It also prohibits colleges from arranging third-party NIL compensation to recruit athletes. And it requires people or companies selling college team merchandise (such as jerseys, video games and trading cards) to make royalty payments to athletes whose names, images, or likenesses are featured.

The legislation further limits the types of endorsement deals that athletes can pursue. Athletes cannot earn compensation from entities associated with adult entertainment, alcohol, gambling, tobacco and electronic smoking devices, prescription drugs, or controlled substances. Further, colleges can prevent athletes from pursuing endorsement deals with their existing sponsors or with entities that conflict with "institutional values."

"It means that students will have the opportunity to capitalize on their name, image and likeness but really have the opportunity to serve as spokespeople, whether it be for commercial entities, to do autographs, to run camps, to run any kind of business that any student on our campus has the opportunity to do," Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour said in early June. "And that really was the impetus there, that we were restricting student-athletes from doing something that students across campus had the opportunity to do."

How is Penn State responding?

Penn State announced partnerships with INFLCR, a content-creation platform, and Spry, a compliance platform, to facilitate NIL opportunities for athletes. Penn State athletes also can connect with alumni and former athletes through the Athlete Network.

The athletic department is making these resources available through STATEment, its new program designed to assist athletes in growing their brands and becoming entrepreneurs. In a release, Penn State also noted that it is the only Power 5 university located within 250 miles of three top-10 media markets (New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.).

"STATEment's comprehensive curriculum and tools will be a game-changer as we help our students navigate the Name, Image and Likeness era," men's basketball coach Micah Shrewsberry said in a statement. "The education and services provided to our students by STATEment will not only help them manage and monetize their right of publicity, but more importantly, continue to prepare them for a lifetime of impact beyond their collegiate playing days."

Several Nittany Lions already have entered the NIL marketplace.  Linebacker Brandon Smith and quarterback Ta'Quan Roberson are among the football players who have partnered with Yoke, a platform that allows fans to play video games with athletes.

Quarterback Sean Clifford has licensed a T-shirt through Quarterback Takeover, and national-champion wrestler Roman Bravo-Young is raffling a pair of match-worn shoes.

Penn State has made NIL opportunities part of its recruiting pitch. According to The Athletic, football players who visited the program received detailed explanations of how Penn State plans to implement its NIL plans. Penn State coaches even suggested that recruits consider starting their own website for branding purposes.

"We are excited the lawmakers in Pennsylvania passed a law to allow our students to explore opportunities involving their name, image and likeness," Penn State's athletic department said in a statement. "This law will give our students the same opportunities that students in states with NIL laws have to receive payment for the use of their name, image or likeness. We have always focused on preparing our students for a lifetime of impact, and this new law will allow our students to grow their entrepreneurial spirit which they will carry with them long beyond their time at Penn State."

Barbour further suggested that Penn State's large alumni base could help athletes earn money.

"We're taking a very holistic approach about this," Barbour said. "It's really about students and building their brands. It's about entrepreneurship and giving them the tools not only to be able to take advantage of now but take out into their careers after Penn State.

"We've always been preparing our student-athletes for many years as it relates to content and responsible behavior on social media, so now we've just really broadened it more from an entrepreneurial standpoint. But I'll tell you this: Like most things at Penn State, our 700,000 living alumni will be a huge advantage for us on this front."

Pennsylvania became the 25th state to pass NIL legislation, according to Sports Illustrated.

The NCAA on Wednesday adopted an interim NIL policy that goes into effect July 1. The NCAA still prohibits athletes from accepting "pay-for-play" inducements to attend a particular school.

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