Star Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett was arrested on a public intoxication charge in Dallas on Sunday, January 29th.  The police report shows that officers were responding to reports of banging on doors, eventually taking Bennett into custody.  Bennett recently chiseled his name as a Georgia football legend a couple of weeks ago after leading the Georgia Bulldogs to their second consecutive College Football Playoff National Championship. His arrest poses interesting legal questions regarding the structure of NIL contracts and brings forward issues other student-athletes should know about.
What Makes a Morals Clause So Important?
Typical NIL agreements include a morals clause that student-athletes may or may not be aware of. A morals clause allows a party who is paying a student-athlete to terminate that agreement because the student-athlete has placed the party into disrepute or public embarrassment. Common actions that trigger a morals clause are arrest, conviction of a crime, or being charged with a felony.
These clauses are important for student-athletes to understand because the impact they have on the NIL agreement depends on the language in the contract. Some morals clauses include language that will retake payments already issued to a student-athlete in addition to canceling future payments or termination of the agreement as a whole. The actions that trigger a morals clause can also vary. Even if being arrested does not trigger the clause, an arrest may violate a team or school policy, which could cause termination from the team. Such termination may then trigger the morals clause.
What are the Ramifications for Stetson Bennett?
Stetson Bennett has exhausted all his years of NCAA eligibility and is preparing for the NFL draft, so his arrest may not his future income. However, Bennett will see consequences if his NIL agreements had morals clauses that included language permitting a company to repossess payments. Another factor to think about, which Bennett and his management team are certainly aware of, is how this arrest affects Bennett’s draft stock. At five feet eleven inches, NFL scouts have already raised doubts and predicted he would be a sixth or seventh-round draft pick. With this arrest, some teams may be even more reluctant to pick him up, so Bennett may need to be worried about losing NIL deals because of behavior that some companies may consider to have brought them into disrepute and public embarrassment.
Stetson Bennett’s arrest highlights a significant aspect of all NIL agreements that some student-athletes may overlook or forget about. Now that student-athletes are getting paid through these deals, they have to keep in mind they are representing professional organizations beyond their team and school, and a lack of reciprocal professionalism brings unwanted consequences to NIL deals they have secured.
Jared Yaggie is a 2L at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. You can connect with him via LinkedIn or on Twitter @JaredYaggie.
 Mark Schlabach, Georgia QB Stetson Bennett Arrested On Public Intoxication Charge, ESPN (Jan. 29, 2023, https://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/35551758/georgia-qb-stetson-bennett-arrested-public-intoxication.  Id.  Calvin Watkins, How Will Georgia QB Stetson Bennett’s NFL Draft Stock Be Affected By Dallas Arrest?, THE DALLAS MORNING STAR (Jan. 29, 2023), https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/ncaafb/how-will-georgia-qb-stetson-bennett-s-nfl-draft-stock-be-affected-by-dallas-arrest/ar-AA16So6J.