OHSAA planning to issue reminder about NIL rights for high school athletes
As college athletes begin to embrace the possibility of profiting from endorsements under new name, image and likeness rules, some top Ohio high school football players appear to have joined in the excitement.
The problem, though, is that the Ohio High School Athletic Association does not permit high school athletes to profit in such a way. According to bylaw 4-10-2, athletes forfeit amateur status, and thus eligibility to compete in OHSAA events, if they use their name to receive money or endorsements.
"An athlete 'capitalizes' on his/her 'athletic fame' by accepting money, merchandise or services of value based in whole or in part upon the notoriety the athlete received through his/her athletic skills and achievements," the bylaw states. "This includes using the athlete’s skill, directly or indirectly, for pay in any form in that sport."
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A handful of football players around the state, including Marysville's Gabe Powers, an Ohio State commit, and Westerville South's Kaden Saunders, a Penn State commit, have posted language on their social media in recent days about the new NIL rules in effect at the NCAA level.
"According to the NCAA, starting July 1st all student-athletes have been granted permission to capitalize on our name, image, and likeness," the text reads. "When this goes into affect student-athletes are going to be able to brand ourselves and other business and companies. Any local or any companies at all that want to use my social media as a platform to promote, do commercials etc to brand themselves, my DMs are open for business. Message me if interested."
Powers posted the same text on his Twitter account June 27 but deleted it by July 1. Neither Powers, Saunders, nor their coaches could be reached for comment.
The OHSAA is aware of the posts and concerned by the confusion around the rules.
"We’ve been texting and emailing because we are aware of two high schools in central Ohio who have had student athletes post that information," said Tim Stried, OHSAA director of communications. "We have already reached out to those two (high schools) to make them aware and talk with their student athletes to educate that them that is a college piece of legislation and permission, not a high school piece of legislation."
This isn't the first time there's been confusion about the differences between college and high school permissions for NIL. Even when introducing Ohio's NIL bill, Sen. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, was surprised when asked if the bill would apply to high school athletes and wasn't aware the OHSAA had a bylaw preventing athletes from profiting from their name.
For the athletes who have posted that they're interested in partnering with businesses and taking advantage of their presumed NIL rights, Stried said the OHSAA is unlikely to enact any discipline at this time. That would change if a student athlete was found to have received money or other benefits, but the mere act of posting language on social media won't result in a penalty.
"This is an ongoing, new situation that even college student-athletes are facing," Stried said. "I don’t think we would discipline a student athlete for this right now. We’re all learning about this together."
In addition to communication with specific schools about their athletes' posts as issues arise, the OHSAA plans to issue broad guidance to all member schools with a reminder of the high school NIL restrictions.
"Our student athletes are probably not fully aware of bylaw 4-10, and there are some school administrators that aren’t even aware of that," Stried said. "We need to educate everybody so that we don’t have any high school student athletes accepting money for advertising any product or site. ... Long story short, the high school student athlete cannot capitalize on his or her name, image or likeness at this point."