In 1995 Ed O’Bannon scored 30 points and grabbed 17 rebounds to lead the UCLA Bruins to the NCAA basketball championship. After that his impact as a professional basketball player was minimal, and he quickly moved from NCAA hero to has-been. Until a few decades later when Ed O’Bannon did something that made him one of the most important athletes of the 21st century. In 2009 Mr. O’Bannon filed a lawsuit against the NCAA, Electronic Arts and Collegiate Licensing Company over using his name, image, and likeness (NIL) in a NCAA basketball video game. This lawsuit forced EA Sports to halt production of their NCAA games in 2014, it inspired California to become the first state to pass a law allowing college athletes to be paid for use of their NIL in 2019, and set the stage for the US Supreme Court to rule unanimously that the NCAA can’t limit education-related benefits to athletes in 2021. In 2021 the NCAA suspended its previous NIL rules and announced an “interim” policy allowing athletes across the nation to be paid for their fame. This “interim” period will have lasted two years by July, 2023, and this paper explores the current “Wild West” landscape of NCAA NIL. From seven-figure individual athlete payouts to NIL collectives that are guaranteeing incomes to prized recruits, NIL is disrupting the world of sporting culture and relationships between, athletes, fans and communities in new and familiar ways. This study interrogates how NIL may be changing the game.
Associate Professor, Director of Sports Communication and Media Graduate Program, Communication Studies, Sacred Heart University, Connecticut, United States Joshua Shuart
Professor/Sport Management, Jack Welch College of Business & Technology, Sacred Heart University, Connecticut, United States
NIL, Name, Image, Likeness, NCAA, Fans, Marketing, Social, Media, Communities