Taft Offers Experienced Team to Assist Colleges and Universities with Name, Image, and Likeness Issues

*This article was updated on July 1 to reflect recent changes.

The NCAA intends to waive enforcement of amateurism rules that are currently in place and prevent college athletes from profiting off their name, image, and likeness (NIL) through an interim policy to be voted on by the NCAA Board of Governors on June 30, 2021 with an effective policy date of July 1, 2021.

The NCAA plans to leave guidance up to states who have laws going into effect on July 1, 2021. If state law governs NIL, then the applicable state law establishes NIL rules for colleges and their athletes. As of July 1, 2021, 14 states have statutes going into effect in July 2021. (Oklahoma, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico, Texas, Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Oregon, and Arizona). Governor Beshear of Kentucky and Governor DeWine of Ohio have signed executive orders in their respective states that also will be in effect on July 1. These states have adopted similar procedures; permitting college athletes to sign endorsement deals and sponsorship contracts, as long as the financial instruments do not conflict with school contract or school values.

Schools in states with no laws in place must determine their own policies. Additional guidance is expected from the NCAA in the near future, but when such guidance will be received is uncertain. 

Meanwhile, with little guidance from the NCAA, college athletes in all 50 states will be entitled to name, image, and likeness rights on July 1, 2021, while the NCAA Interim Policy would govern the athletes and colleges in 42 states. Although the proposed interim plan is permissive, it remains unclear how restrictive NCAA guidance may be and what enforcement measures would be in place.

What Should I Do?

Colleges and universities should act quickly to create policies around these issues. Taft has a long and substantial history of representing educational institutions. We have assembled a uniquely qualified team to assist higher education clients in drafting NIL policies and complying with state laws.

  • Fred Glass, Taft partner and former Indiana University athletic director
  • Derrick Thompson, Taft partner, former Division 1 athlete, Big Ten Conference Advisory Commission Representative, and Big Ten Conference Equality Coalition Member
  • Jonathan Polak, Taft partner and chair of Intellectual Property practice group
  • Howard Zweig, chair of Taft’s multidisciplinary Higher Education industry group
  • Leon Bass, Taft intellectual property and entertainment counsel
  • Jennifer Brumby, Taft associate and member of Employment and Labor Relations practice group

Our lawyers also provide a wide range of related services to higher education clients, including policy drafting, intellectual property, licensing, employment law, and litigation. 

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