As fashion brands continue to enlist celebrities and influencers to promote their products, one group that has historically remained beyond their reach is NCAA college athletes. But that has all changed in light of a recent Supreme Court decision and a dramatic change in the NCAA’s position. College athletes are about to become important representatives of brands, including their own, because they are now permitted to be paid for the use of their name, likeness or image. Making sense of the new rules promises to be a difficult task for attorneys, business executives and administrators in the fashion industry and elsewhere. This article provides a general outline of a rapidly-evolving new industry.
NCAA’s Historical Restrictions on Certain Types of Athlete Compensation Has Been Removed. Throughout its history, the NCAA has maintained a strict amateur code towards college athletes, seeking to enforce, although not always successfully, a clear and deliberate distinction between students and professionals. The NCAA, which was founded in 1906 and assumed its present name in 1910, had organizational bylaws that prohibited student athletes from receiving any compensation for their services. Violations were commonplace even during the first half of the 20th century, and it was not until the 1948 “Sanity Code” that NCAA policy permitted athletic scholarships or financial aid to athletes in an early attempt to regulate the corruption.