New rule gives college athletes earning potential
By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – Kamari McGee always had the idea to make his own T-shirts.
But McGee, a freshman on the UW-Green Bay men’s basketball team, was hampered from designing and selling T-shirts by the NCAA.
He didn’t want to violate rules set forth by the national organization which governs intercollegiate athletics.
However, on July 1 when the NCAA approved a move to allow student-athletes to profit from the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL), it opened the door for McGee and thousands of college athletes.
“As soon as I saw you can start getting paid for it, I hopped on it right away,” McGee said. “When they gave us the go-ahead, I took advantage of it.”
Nicknamed Killa Kam at St. Catherine’s High School in Racine, his supporters can now don a T-shirt supporting the guard.
McGee is thought to be the first UW-Green Bay student-athlete to ink an NIL endorsement deal.
NIL is a fluid situation nationwide with many moving parts.
Since federal legislation hasn’t been passed, NIL laws are regulated on a state-by-state basis.
As of July 29, 28 states had signed legislation or issued executive orders to allow athletes to profit off deals.
According to businessofcollegesports.com, Wisconsin has no bill proposed, but politicians say they are considering drafting a bill.
“It’s not as if institutions can prevent student-athletes from engaging in NIL opportunities,” UW-Green Bay Deputy Director of Athletics Jermaine Rolle, who handles NIL compliance for the university, said. “The legislation is there to permit student-athletes to do so. Any institution that decides to not allow their student-athletes to engage in NIL opportunities probably would open itself up to potential litigation from student-athletes. UW-Green Bay and other institutions across the country have drafted policies or are drafting policies that align with the NCAA interim policy guidelines that are specific to the respective institutions. If there are state laws governing NIL, institutional policies must align with those laws.”
After the NIL deal was approved, McGee was in contact with the Racine-based company Valid Kixx to design his T-shirts.
Afterward, McGee contacted Rolle in the compliance department to make sure he wouldn’t violate any rules.
“He just told me it can’t have anything to do with Green Bay – like I couldn’t use amy logos or none of that,” McGee said. “He just told me that and to make sure that I got a contract (from the T-shirt company) between us to make sure I’m not getting like played or anything.”
The shirts were printed not long after.
“All the people in Racine who know me, they support it, so I’m just trying to get it out there some more,” McGee said. “I made a lot of T-shirts.”
As of the end of August, McGee said he’s sold a “couple thousand” T-shirts.
His contract with Valid Kixx gives him a certain percentage of every T-shirt sold.
“It feels good, honestly,” McGee said. “It’s a difference. It hasn’t been around long at all. If you have fans, college basketball players have fans, so it feels good to know that you can make money off of who you are.”
Being part of a T-shirt deal is just one of many ways athletes can profit from NIL.
Other ways include partnering with brands to advertise through social media, signing autographs, teaching camps or lessons, starting their own business and participating in advertising camps.”’
When NIL was approved on July 1, UW-Green Bay Men’s Basketball Coach Will Ryan and his staff quickly tried to make sense of it all.
“As a staff and as a team, as a program, we need to be educated with this stuff because it’s so new,” Ryan said. “The biggest thing is I don’t want any of our guys to get caught up in something that would jeopardize their eligibility. I told them that what they need to do first and foremost is they can run it by us, but they do need to get compliance.”
McGee’s teammate Lucas Stieber said he is intrigued about the new NIL deal.
As a Green Bay Southwest graduate who stayed in town to play college basketball, Stieber’s name and image could attract local businesses to bring him on as sort of a spokesperson.
Stieber, who is the grandson of legendary coach Dick Bennett and nephew of Virginia men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett, was a walk-on at UW-Green Bay.
But two years later, he earned a full-ride scholarship after showing what he can do on the court.
Early on after NIL was passed, Stieber had yet to hear from any companies.
“If some companies were to call me, talk to me and say ‘Hey, this is the direction moving forward – this is kind of what we would like you to do, this is what we could see you doing,’ there’d be some interest from me,” Stieber said. “I haven’t put myself out there a ton to these companies, but if there’s some place like, ‘Hey, Lucas is a local guy. Lucas is a Green Bay high school graduate, I think we’d want him to endorse this or wear this or be on a billboard here or do something like that,’ that would be pretty interesting to me. It would have to be worth it.”
Ryan is learning about all the rules as he goes, but he’s well aware of one with his coaching staff.
“We’re not allowed to line anything up for (athletes) in terms of I can’t reach out to a company or a business and say, ‘Hey, can you hook up Lucas Stieber and get him to do an autograph signing or endorse your product or whatever the case may be so he can get some spending money,’” Ryan said. “We’re not allowed to do that. Will schools do that or have they done that? Possibly. I don’t know. We try to follow the rules and that’s what I told the guys.”
As Ryan prepares for his team’s upcoming season, NIL is just one more duty to add to his already overflowing plate.
But, he said he’s happy his student-athletes can benefit from NIL.
“The younger me maybe would have rolled my eyes at it, I guess, but I think it’s a great thing for the student-athletes,” Ryan said. “It helps them in a sense kind of expand their own brand. They can learn a lot about how business works and marketing and all that stuff that comes with it. I told the guys, ‘Look, if you put in the work, you get better as a team and ultimately win games, you are going to expand your own brand eventually.’ I said, ‘Right here and now, how about we expand the GB brand and have people want to come watch you play and support you by doing the right things on and off the court. Ultimately, that may help you advance your careers after college, but in the here and now, help you maybe put a couple of extra dollars in your pocket, if it happens.’”
UW-Green Bay men’s basketball players aren’t the only athletes in the area who could be attracted to NIL deals.
With the success of the UWGB women’s basketball program over the years, some area businesses could reach out to players.
Phoenix Women’s Basketball Coach Kevin Borseth said it has happened in the past.
“I can tell you there are people in our area that have asked our players to be in pictures, kind of do things for them and they haven’t been allowed to do that, it’s there,” Borseth said. “We’re going to have opportunities. Don’t know exactly what that’s going to mean, but I can tell you right now, there were two opportunities that our players have had to be not necessarily a spokesperson, but involved in some of the pictures, the advertising, the marketing, to be involved in that. … “This has been going on for years. ‘Can we use your players?’ ‘No. You can’t because you’re not allowed to do that.’ Now all of a sudden those kids are going to be able to do it. It’s a wide-open game right now. It’s anybody’s guess what’s going to happen.”
Just like coach Ryan, Borseth wants to make sure all his women are informed about the rules and regulations.
But Borseth said he doesn’t know if he’s the right person to be giving advice about NIL since he has so many questions himself.
“I’m waiting until the year starts,” Borseth, who noted as of mid-August hadn’t had an athlete sign any NIL deals, said. “I think our athletic department needs to address that with our student-athletes. It’s so new. I’m focusing on what I know how to do, what I was hired to do and that’s to get these kids socially, athletically, academically, all their I’s dotted, all their T’s crossed, good manners, be a good teammate, work hard – all those things that get you a little bit further in life as opposed to, this is how I’m going to make a buck. I’m not the agent. I’m not going to be their agent. Let’s put it that way. I’ve got more important things to do. I’ve got 14 players I really need to work on.”
Some college athletes at large institutions – e.g., football powerhouses Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma – have signed massive NIL contracts.
Near the end of July, Alabama football coach Nick Saban wasn’t shy in announcing his starting quarterback Bryce Young had nearly $1 million in NIL deals.
Open to growing her brand
Jaddan Simmons, who graduated from Green Bay Southwest in 2020, enjoyed a great freshman season on the Arizona State women’s basketball team.
She started every game and led the team in assists per game (2.7) and was second in points per game (10.8).
Simmons might garner some NIL interest from Phoenix-area companies if she continues her solid play.
“I haven’t had one that like interests me yet,” Simmons said. “But, yeah, I’m looking to get into that soon.”
She said she is a fan of NIL deals.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for athletes just to like get their name out there and start branding sooner rather than later, especially female athletes,” she said. “It’s very important to do that because we don’t get paid as much, so for this, it just helps people get going early rather than later.”
She has aspirations of playing in the WNBA and said locking up NIL deals could be helpful in a number of different ways.
“I think it could definitely be beneficial to get our name out there and that will help like if you want to go to the (WNBA), people will start seeing you more on social media because you know social media’s a big factor now,” Simmons said.