The world is moving at a ridiculously fast pace right now. Collegiate athletes are finally able to get compensated for their name, image, and likeness (NIL), shifting the definition of what is once met to be a student-athlete. NIL money has officially changed the game.
We have already seen collegiate athletes almost make what would have seemed like crazy decisions just 5 years ago as a result of NIL money. CJ Stroud, Ohio State’s quarterback in 2022, is currently a consensus top 5 pick in the NFL draft, with rumors he may even be drafted first overall after the recent Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers trade. However, he waited until the final day to declare for the NFL draft. This decision was a result of the possibility that booster-funded NIL collectives could offer a contract for Stroud to remain at Ohio State rather than declaring for the draft.
These lucrative deals do not just come from NIL collectives but also from any company willing to pay the price. Companies like Beats by Dre and Fanatics have made deals with University of Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams leading to his net worth being estimated at 2.4 million dollars before he has even taken an NFL snap.
For so long, social media influencers who were also collegiate athletes were not able to profit from this online success until after they graduated. Some, like former University of Central Florida kicker Donald De La Haye, even decided to forfeit their scholarships to instead profit from their social media. His channel, “Deestroying”, has since eclipsed 5 million subscribers, and it is safe to say De La Haye has profited immensely from this decision.
Today, the combination of social media influencing and NIL deals has created a new age wild west. Olivia “Livvy” Dunne is a gymnast at Louisiana State University (LSU) who has become a social media sensation with over 7 million followers on TikTok. With the ability to profit off her NIL, she has been able to make brand deals while still remaining affiliated as a student-athlete with her school, unlike De La Haye before this NIL legislation.
However, Dunne has recently faced backlash for a recent partnership with the company Caktus AI. Caktus AI is an educational artificial intelligence tool whose target demographic are students looking for help with school by receiving essays generated by the AI system. Students are able to refine this search in detail, leading to a very real possibility of the system being used for academic dishonesty. Following Dunne posting a TikTok about the company, LSU published a statement stating that, “using AI to produce work that a student then represents as one's own could result in a charge of academic misconduct, as outlined in the Code of Student Conduct.” While Dunne and Caktus AI were not specifically mentioned, it seems clear who the statement was aimed towards.
Athletes are required to disclose contracts to a designated official at their school to ensure there are no conflicts with any contracts the school has with other companies or organizations. Time will only tell if schools will attempt to limit posts like Dunne’s that may go against certain values they have.
Dustin Pokorny is a 1L student and representative of the Sports Law Society at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law in Los Angeles. He can be found on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/dustin-pokorny-301459172/.