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On June 21, 2021, the US Supreme Court also affirmed a district court decision that the NCAA violated antitrust rules by limiting education-related benefits schools can provide to students, a unanimous decision that could lead to further rulings on the side of college athletes. Ultimately, the NCAA’s name-image-likeness (NIL) rule change was a belated attempt to level the playing field once the decision was largely out of the organization’s hands.

The NCAA still does not allow colleges and universities to pay athletes like professional sports leagues pay their players—with salaries and benefits—but the new changes will allow college athletes to solicit endorsement deals, sell their own merchandise, and make money off of their social media accounts.

The importance of protecting one’s NIL for sports celebrities extends beyond the immediate income streams during their active playing careers. Here are several reasons why it’s crucial for athletes to focus on this aspect for financial stability and opportunities in their later years:

  •  Longevity of income
  • Brand endorsements
  • Income and entrepreneurship
  • Social and cultural capital
  • Legal issues

The repercussions of not adequately protecting NIL can result in lost revenue, limited business opportunities, and a diminished legacy. Therefore, proactive management of NIL is not only important for immediate financial gain but also crucial for securing long-term financial stability and leveraging career opportunities after retirement from active sports.