December 9th, 2022

Pennsylvania Extends NIL Rights to High School Athletes

The next layer of Name, Image, and Likeness (“NIL”) rights for athletes in Pennsylvania has officially arrived. Following a ton of speculation on the topic, the board of directors for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (“PIAA”), which is the governing body of high school athletics in Pennsylvania, voted to permit high school athletes to monetize their NIL. At the conclusion of the motion’s third reading on December 7, 2022, the rule was passed by a 25-4 vote. Pennsylvania joins 20 other states in the union allowing high school athletes to benefit from their own NIL.

            It was only a little over a year ago when the Pennsylvania state legislature adopted a bill permitting the state’s collegiate athletes to monetize their NIL. Now, we see that right extended to high school athletes as the state seeks to keep pace with the nation’s leaders in NIL. High school athletes now have the ability to make money through endorsements, advertisements, social media posts, and other promotional activities. As expected, there are many similarities between the PIAA’s new high school rule and the state’s collegiate legislation.

            For example, the PIAA’s rule includes restricted promotions and it ensures separation between athletes and schools/governing bodies. The law for both high school and college athletes restricts athletes from entering into NIL deals with individuals and businesses involved in adult entertainment, gambling, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, prescription drugs and other controlled substances, and weapons of any kind. Additionally, in an effort to keep the intellectual property and privacy rights of athletes and schools separated, both rules also prohibit athletes from using their school’s logos, names, and nicknames in any promotions or endorsements.

            However, there are key differences between the two rules as well. For example, the PIAA’s new rule expressly prohibits boosters, collectives, and alumni from helping student-athletes attain NIL deals. This could not be further from what is going on in the collegiate landscape. Boosters and alumni have been a driving force behind NIL at the college level, and nearly every Power 5 school in the country has a NIL collective to help facilitate deals with a school’s student-athletes. Furthermore, the Pennsylvania General Assembly voted 49-0 just last month to refine Pennsylvania’s NIL law to remove language from the law that once prohibited schools from helping to arrange NIL deals for student-athletes. Unfortunately, it looks like high school athletes will be without these groups until they reach the college level, which means they will have to work a little harder to secure NIL deals.

            A few other key differences between the two rules include enforcement and reporting. The PIAA rule has left enforcement up to each individual school district throughout the state. While it generally is up to school districts to make rules and policies for its students, it will be interesting to see how each district applies the new rule; we should certainly expect a lot of differences from district to district pertaining to the systems each one sets up. Meanwhile, enforcement at the college level is generally left up to the university. Furthermore on the differences between the rules, the high school rule is requiring that an athlete report any NIL deal in which he or she is partaking to the school’s athletic department within 72 hours of receiving the deal. The collegiate rule originally required athletes to report all deals to their school within a week, but the November amendment to the college rule dropped that requirement.

            The NIL landscape continues to change, and in this instance, it just grew exponentially. Whether you are an athlete in high school or college, navigating the NIL space can be tricky. We know that between playing the game you love and trying to secure NIL benefits, you don’t want to have to worry about your compliance or whether you are getting the best deal possible. Luckily, the sports law attorneys at Gross McGinley have your back. We are here to help you maximize your NIL deal potential and ensure your eligibility. Call us today to learn about our NIL practice and how we help athletes reach their off-the-field goals, while they achieve their dreams on the field. 

Michael S. Horvath II is a dedicated and experienced Sports Law attorney with Gross McGinley serving organizations and athletes in the Lehigh Valley and beyond.

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