Ohio State's players launching line of team-branded merchandise

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State men's basketball players (L-R) Kalen Etzler, Jimmy Sotos and Zed Key model their new team-created merchandise.

The 15 members of the Ohio State’s men’s basketball team aren’t the first to plan to profit from their name, image and likeness rights.

They just might be the first to decide to do it together. Monday, an idea hatched during the summer came to fruition with the launching of a clothing line created by the 2021-22 Buckeyes. Dubbed “The Players Edition” and designed to celebrate “Team 123,” the profits from the sweatshirts and T-shirts sold will be split equally among each member of the team.

That means every Buckeye on the roster from Justin Ahrens to Kyle Young, regardless of playing time, seniority or background, has the same potential for financial gain with this new enterprise.

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“We felt like it could be super fun for all of us to be part of something together, and it was also an opportunity to make a historic moment,” fifth-year graduate guard Jimmy Sotos said. “No team in college basketball is doing a team merchandise deal like this where everybody’s sharing money and everything coming our way right now. We wanted to pioneer this.”

The wheels were put in motion in June. Terence Dials, Ohio State’s director of professional development, connected members of the team with alumnus Brandon Fuss-Cheatham, who was in the process of co-founding NILManagement group to help players start to profit from the new NCAA legislation set to go into effect July 1.  

Fuss-Cheatham, who has gone on to sign multiple players to NIL deals, pitched the idea of a team venture. What followed were months of legal hurdles, design work and logistics overseen primarily by three current players: Sotos, Young and Justice Sueing. Sotos, who has 1.1 million Tik Tok followers and 148,000 followers on Instagram, assumed somewhat of a leadership role due to his longstanding familiarity within the social media realm.

Sotos said the players have been represented by sports attorney Luke Fedlam from the Columbus-based Porter Wright firm and have established an LLC.

“It’s been a great process,” Sotos said. “The guys trust in me, but it’s not like I’ve been doing it all by myself. It’s been a collaborative effort and everybody’s been hands-on and nitpicky about it. It’s been a lot of fun honestly.”

The merchandise will feature gear in three colors. The words “PLAYERS EDITION” surround a basketball that contains an Ohio outline and the number 123, a reference to this year’s team, the 123rd in Ohio State men’s basketball history. The university does not profit from the merchandise because no trademarks are used, Sotos said.

“It wasn’t like we need to capitalize on this moment,” he said. “It was more that we wanted to do it. We’re just a super close group of guys. I think that comes across in how we present ourselves on social media and even on the basketball court. I think we have a really high team chemistry.”

The hope is that this is just the beginning. After the process took months to complete, Sotos said next year’s team will be able to sell Team 124 merchandise and so on. In future years, special merchandise might be created for unique games or postseason opportunities.

All of this has been done while the Buckeyes have worked to make sure they “keep the main thing the main thing,” as Sotos put it.

“We care about basketball more than anything in the world,” he said. “We care about winning championships. Everything that happens outside of basketball is what we’d do in our free time anyway. We just decided to put it toward something more and something that could benefit us.”

The full line of merchandise can be found at www.theplayersedition.com.



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