The impressive athletic feats and winning personalities of professional athletes have inspired countless young people to aspire to follow in their footsteps, but the life of a professional athlete is not as glamorous as it sounds; ESPN has an entire documentary series about athletes who, approaching the upper age limit to play their sports professionally and naïve about business, were easy prey to unscrupulous advisers and business partners, and now nothing remains of the fortune they amassed through sports except lawsuits and debt.  College athletes have it even worse; they don’t even get paid for their efforts.  They do get a scholarship to college, but it also comes with a work schedule (practices and games, some of them out of town) that makes it very difficult to focus on their studies.  Unlike professional athletes, college athletes, no matter how famous they are, cannot make money off of the commercial use of their name, image, and likeness, but that may change soon.  The Alabama Senate is currently considering a bill that would allow college athletes to profit off of the licensing of their name, image, and likeness.  Any college athlete hoping to make money off of their name, image, and likeness (NIL) in Alabama should consult an Alabama business law attorney.

How a Business Lawyer Can Help College Athletes Under the New NIL Law

 The new law proposes to treat college athletes as a new legal category, namely semi-professional athletes, and to allow them to make money off of the use of their NIL by third parties.  This could mean endorsing products on their social media platforms, allowing their names and likenesses to be used in video games, and authorizing memorabilia manufacturers to produce figurines of their likenesses, among many other commercial endeavors.  (The proposed law will not allow semi-professional athletes to use their NIL in connection with alcohol, tobacco, or adult entertainment products.)  This might sound like easy money, but it is actually a legal minefield that leaves athletes who authorize the commercial use of their NIL financially vulnerable.

These are some issues that might arise:

  • Disputes over trademark infringement
  • Product liability lawsuits if a product with the athlete’s NIL causes injury
  • Alabama Deceptive Trade Practices Act disputes over counterfeit products
  • Tax issues related to athlete apparel

The best way to protect yourself from liability related to business disputes and customer complaints related to products bearing your NIL is to form a business entity.  This way, if products bearing your NIL cause problems, the responsibility does not lie with you but with a company under your control.  A business law attorney can help you form a business entity to handle your NIL endorsement deals.  Your lawyer can also help you resolve disputes related to the commercial use of your NIL.

Let Us Help You Today

Commercial use of your NIL can be a lucrative opportunity for college athletes, but it can also be fraught with problems.  An Alabama business & corporate litigation attorney can help you make wise business decisions related to commercializing your NIL.  Contact Cloud Willis & Ellis for help.