What’s in a Name? A Critical Inquiry into the Cost of the NCAA Name, Image, and Likeness Policy


Gender disparity in endorsement pay exists in professional sport. Today, with the NCAA policy allowing college students compensation for their name, image, and likeness (NIL), that gender disparity is even more prevalent. This paper discusses gender pay inequity in collegiate sports sponsorships and endorsements and recommends ways to move toward pay parity. This critical inquiry study uses Friedman et al.’s (2004) stakeholder theory as it presents a framework with descriptive and prescriptive values for sport practitioners and academics. Critical inquiry researchers examine and challenge the status quo and the dominant constructions of reality and power relations as these produce inequalities and lead to marginalization. While college athletes are now able to monetize their NIL, it may literally come at a personal cost. Almost 72% of NIL deals go to men as compared to about 28% to women (Mcavoy, 2023). In football, a male-dominant sport that yields the highest pay among sports, players receive 50.5% of all endorsement dollars; women’s college basketball, in comparison, only receives 11.6% (Opendorse, 2023). Furthermore, only 34% of collectives (groups of donors and alumni) fund female athletes, raising issues of a potential Title IX violation (Christovich, 2023). Gymnastics and basketball - two sports where female student-athletes fare best in NIL endorsements - and some universities are making positive progress to support female-athlete NIL initiatives. In all, the age-old gender disparity that exists in professional sport is trickling down to collegiate sports via NIL contracts. The paper offers communication strategies and recommendations for proactively addressing the issue.


Terry Rentner
Professor, School of Media & Communication, Bowling Green State University, Ohio, United States

David Burns
Professor, Communication Department, Salisbury University, Maryland, United States


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Gender Equity and Policy


Gender Equity, NIL, Critical Inquiry, Student Athletes, Collegiate Sports Sponsorships

Digital Media