Add high schoolers to the list of athletes cashing in on NIL deals

So far, 30 states and Washington, D.C., have given high school athletes the chance to profit.
The logo of German sports equipment company Adidas on a shirt
Posted at 4:57 PM, Jun 20, 2024

If you thought you were done hearing about NIL deals — in which college and other athletes can earn money off their name, image, and likeness — think again.

The much-debated issue that was first put into practice when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of college athletes receiving compensation in 2021 has found a new fertile feeding ground: high school.

It is a state-by-state issue, but so far, 30 states and Washington, D.C., have given high school athletes the chance to profit, albeit with plenty of guardrails.

High school sports have been seen as the last beacon of pure sportsmanship as they, for the most part, have not been infiltrated by corporate money — but that looks to be changing. Earlier this month, Adidas posted a video to Instagram announcing seven high school athletes it is signing to its roster of ambassadors.

“I keep it at arm’s length from me as the executive director of high school athletics because, in my opinion, high school sports are still the 'true sport,' not a business. Unfortunately, it’s starting to leak," said Eddie Bonine, executive director of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association.

Bonine says these deals are sprouting up more and more in the high school ranks as more states pave ways forteens to profit off their name, image, and likeness. There are strict limits to what can take place, however. For instance, products like alcohol, vaping, and gambling cannot be endorsed by high school athletes. States have also put a ban on what are known as collectives, groups which are used at the college level to lure kids who have lucrative deals.

Bonine says while it could have positives like revenue and branding for athletes, it could also have some drawbacks, like affecting how universities recruit.

“Say a kid gets this really good deal with Nike and goes to an Adidas or Under Armour school. [They] get a scholarship [for] baseball, football, basketball, you name it — kid's screwed now," said Bonine. "That question would’ve never been asked: 'Are you presently under agreement with NIL?'”

“Unless you’re Bronny James, or somebody like that, nobody is making the big money in high school. Right? 1% of 1% kind of a deal," added Randy Eccker.

Eccker is the CEO of Eccker Sports, a group that not only has helped nearly half of the states craft their laws around high school NIL deals, but also educates student athletes. He says for the most part, these deals are geared toward having kids represent local products. He also says it doesn’t seem to be affecting kids negatively, only in a few instances when their families get too involved.

“The kids, I don’t think could care less, frankly," he said. "But it gets in the hands of the parents who want to see their kids make money, or maybe it’s money they think they can make for their family or for themselves, and that’s when the challenges arise.”

There is no saying how widespread or how far this might go, but in the social media age it is a symbiotic relationship in which companies can reach different demographics, and high schoolers now may have that chance to become household names.