The landmark Name-Image-Likeness laws changed elite-level college sports by allowing college students to earn money. While we recently highlighted how some young women in college are capitalizing on their looks to advance their brand, we now turn to high school athletes also capitalizing on NIL. These athletes were likely previously active on social media with large followings, and the change means that they can now legally earn income from an asset they already possess.
According to the Associated Press, a select few high school athletes earn six and seven figures representing various products and companies. Not all states allow NIL for high school athletes, but there are already instances where young athletes are relocating (with family members in tow) to states like California, where high schoolers can earn NIL money.
The numbers are impressive
Not surprisingly, football and basketball players dominate the rankings for highest NIL valuations, but as previously noted on this blog, female athletes’ rankings also include other sports like gymnastics.
- Bronny James: $7,500,000 (basketball)
- Mikey Williams: 3,600,000 (basketball)
- Arch Manning: $3,400,000 (football)
- Olivia Dunn: $2,600,000 (gymnastics)
- Suni Lee: $1,500,000 (gymnastics)
- Paige Bueckers: $823,000 (basketball)
There are other benefits
Cynics may believe NIL money can cause as much harm as it does good, particularly among the young, who should focus on other things besides their branding. While there will undoubtedly be parents or guardians who exploit their children’s wealth or fame, it seems to be working. As with other child celebrities, the athletes build effective support systems around them, whether it is family members or professionals who can do things like help make grounded business decisions, handle tax issues and generally help with managing money. Long a crucial part of the equation, coaches keep young athletes grounded and focused.
The likelihood of success in professional sports is minuscule even for high school phenoms: Injuries are common, physical development may hit the ceiling, and priorities may change. But if the athlete and their team play it right, there are life lessons to be learned and financial stability for them and their family that may not otherwise be there.
Athletes did not invent NIL, but they certainly can benefit from it. Better them than anyone else.