For its first half-century of existence, the NCAA outlawed student-athletes from receiving so much as a scholarship in compensation. All these years later, the nonprofit organization pays its 460,000-plus student-athletes in good ol’ fashioned opportunity, despite having evolved into an industry that charges networks nearly $1 billion annually merely for March Madness TV rights.
Of course, the rulebook hasn’t stopped athletes from finding camouflaged avenues of compensation, with allegations against Zion Williamson being the splashiest, most recent example. The New Orleans Pelicans star was named earlier this month in a $100 million lawsuit brought forth by his former marketing representative and her company, Prime Sports. Among other requests, the lawsuit asks the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA draft to admit that his family received economic benefits and gifts to secure his commitment to Duke University.
Williamson was undeniably one of the most marketable college athletes in recent memory. And despite generating not insignificant amounts of money for his university, conference and sport, by rule Williamson was allowed nothing more than the value of his scholarship and the opportunities afforded to him as a student-athlete.
Increasingly, however, it appears that changes are on the way.
The NCAA has long prohibited its athletes from profiting off their name, image and likeness (NIL) — three pillars of personal branding. But a California law signed last year gives those NIL rights to student-athletes, and more than 30 other states have since filed similar legislation. So in