- Moderator: Tom McMillen, President & CEO, LEAD1 Association
- Panel #1:
- Lyle Adams, Founder & CEO, Spry
- Ishveen Anand, CEO, OpenSponsorship
- Jim Cavale, Founder & CEO, INFLCR
- Luke Fedlam, President, Anomaly Sports Group
- Panel #2:
- Courtney Altemus, CEO, TeamAltemus
- Blake Lawrence, Co-Founder & CEO, Opendorse
- AJ Maestas, Founder & CEO, Navigate Research
On Thursday, with more than 800 registrants, LEAD1 Association (“LEAD1”) hosted a webinar discussing some of the latest issues with respect to student-athlete name, image and likeness (NIL) compensation. With more than 30 states considering passing NIL legislation, several introduced bills from Congress and the NCAA developing legislation solutions, student-athlete NIL is a sea change moment for college sports. The webinar, separated into two panels, all moderated by LEAD1 CEO and President, Tom McMillen, featured some of the best and brightest on NIL. The first panel included Lyle Adams (Founder & CEO at Spry), Ishveen Anand (CEO at OpenSponsorship), Luke Fedlam (President at Anomaly Sports Group) and Jim Cavale (Founder & CEO at INFCR). The second panel included Blake Lawrence (Co-Founder & CEO at Opendorse, who also sponsored the webinar), Courtney Altemus (CEO at TeamAltemus) and AJ Maestas (Founder & CEO at Navigate Research). The webinar was one of LEAD1’s most novel because each panelist offered a different and unique perspective on the future NIL landscape.
Panel One opened the webinar with a discussion about the possibility of a third party administrator (TPA) managing a potential NIL system. Adams highlighted the possibility of a centralized technological disclosure process where student-athletes could submit NIL deals and such agreements could be vetted through the TPA. Anand underscored that an NIL system may need to provide flexibility depending upon the type of student-athlete, for example, the NIL solution for a star quarterback may be different from a field hockey player. Cavale explained some of the challenges involved with getting all stakeholders to use the same technological platform and his focus on helping student-athletes grow their brands through such technology. Similar to Anand’s comments, Fedlam emphasized that one size may not fit all for NIL deals and that education will be needed to ensure student-athletes make informed NIL decisions.
Next, the panel expanded upon some of the guardrails that may be needed to flag potential abuses where student-athletes receive NIL payments, which, in reality, are recruiting and transfer inducements. Here, Adams again mentioned the possibility of vetting boosters through a possible disclosure database and Anand discussed the possibility of protecting certain categories of deals (such as how the professional sports leagues exclude CBD as an endorsement category). Cavale made an interesting point that the potential technological system will likely evolve and improve over time as more data becomes available. Fedlam agreed with Cavale’s statement, but also argued that without enough education, student-athletes should enter into flexible contracts (such as shorter-term deals) such as not to bind themselves into potential long-term unfavorable agreements.
The panel also discussed pre-enrollment issues, such as whether NIL legislation applicable to enrolled student-athletes should apply to individuals prior to collegiate enrollment, potential institutional involvement and some of the guardrails that may be included in a federal NIL bill such as an ongoing evaluation function, group licensing and certain educational requirements.
Panel Two followed with another discussion addressing many of the issues that were offered in the first panel and also raised several other worthy topics. Lawrence, a former student-athlete, made a unique comment that all student-athletes should be able to monetize their NILs. This is fascinating given that many have opined that only the top student-athletes, such as the star quarterback or point guard, will be able to enter into NIL deals. Lawrence also engaged the audience into an analysis of how the recruiting landscape could change with NIL (such as NIL becoming another major recruiting tool among the many resources that institutions already offer). In addition, Lawrence examined other ancillary issues with respect to institutional involvement such as use of institutional marks and possible joint deals between student-athletes and institutions.
Expanding upon Fedlam’s earlier insight, Altemus highlighted the need for potential vetting of outside third parties and agents and the importance of ensuring that student-athletes receive the requisite education and guidance before signing NIL deals. In this vein, Altemus stated that the college sports industry should be mindful that student-athletes will need to manage their time wisely when potentially adding NIL activities to their already busy schedules. Finally, Maestas urged for college sports to adopt a group licensing model that would allow companies, such as EA Sports, to develop video games featuring NCAA student-athletes. Maestas noted that such video games are, in some ways, a “gateway” for becoming a college sports fan and that student-athletes “love seeing themselves in the video games.” In addition, Maestas argued that student-athletes should be able to collectively bargain like all other athletes.
All in all, between the two panels, almost every major NIL issue was discussed and the college sports industry should not be surprised to see this group collaborating on this issue for years to come.