A New Frontier: Understanding Florida’s New Nil Policy for High School Athletes

A New Frontier: Understanding Florida’s New Nil Policy for High School Athletes

By Haley Gorey and Gregg Clifton

Falling in line with nearly 40 other states, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) has paved the way for high school athletes in the state to commercialize the power of their Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) rights. This transformative amendment to the FHSAA Bylaws promises student-athletes the opportunity to engage in commercial endorsements and promotions without compromising their amateur status and eligibility. This groundbreaking shift is set to take effect as early as the 2024-2025 season, pending the anticipated final ratification of the bylaw amendment by the Department of Education on July 24th.

Key Provisions of the New Policy

The newly adopted policy explicitly recognizes “NIL Agreements” as a permissible form of compensation for Florida’s high school athletes. However, central to the new rules are stringent guidelines aimed at safeguarding amateur status and eligibility as well as ensuring that the introduction of NIL activities does not jeopardize fairness or promote illegal recruiting tactics. Here is a summary of the crucial aspects of the new policy:

Written Agreements: The policy defines a “Name, Image, and Likeness Agreement” as a “fully executed, written contract that allows for student-athletes to profit from or be compensated for promoting, partnering, and/or representing product endorsements or other activities…” This requirement aims to prevent undisclosed pay-for-play arrangements or compensation linked to school enrollment. A properly executed written NIL agreement helps demonstrate that any compensation received is legitimate and compliant with FHSAA guidelines, thereby minimizing risks to an athlete’s future eligibility. Moreover, contracts cannot extend beyond the athlete’s high school graduation date to prevent long-term commitments that are predatory in nature and could affect the athlete’s amateur status while impacting future NIL opportunities as their careers progress beyond high school.

Recruitment Restrictions: One of the primary concerns addressed by the FHSAA is the potential for NIL opportunities to act as a facilitator in illegal recruitment practices. To combat this, the policy explicitly prohibits the use of collectives or groups that could serve as vehicles for funneling NIL benefits to student-athletes in exchange for enrollment or athletic commitments. This measure is crucial in maintaining the integrity of high school sports and ensuring fair competition among schools. Additionally, the FHSAA has implemented a strict transfer policy concerning NIL activities. Since Florida operates under an open enrollment policy, which allows students to attend any school so long as there is capacity, many espoused worries that NIL opportunities would be used to entice athletes to transfer to other programs. In an effort to uphold fair competition and prevent any attempts to exploit NIL to obtain a competitive advantage, the FHSAA bars student-athletes from engaging in NIL agreements during their transfer season unless they obtain specific exemptions.

No Use of Intellectual Property: Athletes are barred from using school uniforms, mascots, or other intellectual property without written consent. This restriction protects schools from being inadvertently associated with products that do not align with their values and standards. It also aims prevent potential exploitation of the school’s brand for private gain without any remuneration being provided to the school.

Prohibited Engagements: While creating opportunities for student-athletes to capitalize on their individual NIL rights, the policy will also restrict certain types of deals. Specifically, NIL deals involving adult entertainment, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling, or political activism are strictly prohibited under the new regulations. This safeguard aims to uphold ethical standards and prioritize student-athlete welfare.

School Non-Interference: The FHSAA underscores that schools or their representatives cannot intervene in, influence or help secure a student-athlete’s NIL agreement. This provision aims to maintain the autonomy and independence of student-athletes in their commercial endeavors. By preventing schools and their representatives from facilitating or influencing athletes’ endorsement deals, the new policy aims to ensure that NIL opportunities are not used as an improper recruitment tactic but instead are based an athlete’s individual merit and marketability.

In preparation for this fundamental change to high school athletics, it is important for athletes, parents, and coaches to understand the implications of the introduction of NIL and to ensure that they remain in compliance with the state’s new rules.