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The Future of the Paid College Athlete.

CECILIA BLOTTO, HOST 1: Earlier today, the state of Virginia passed a law allowing universities to pay their athletes through NIL deals. Our sports reporter, Desiree Nikfardjam is in the studio with us to explain what this means. So, Desiree, what are N-I-Ls?

DESIREE NIKFARDJAM, BYLINE: So, N- I- L stands for name, image, and likeness. And schools had been profiting off their athletes NILs - without compensating them. While the athletes themselves have had to look elsewhere for sponsorships that would pay them for it. 

It’s not the same as an hourly wage, but this new law is great news for athletes playing in Virginia specifically. And it’s promising for the rest of college athletes – nationally. But it’s not great news for the NCAA, which will be losing money. 

MARINE SAINT, HOST 2:  Oh wow. Was this the only way for college athletes to get some income?

NIKFARDJAM: No, there are other options. One of them is for the athletes to sell shares of their earnings throughout the length of their careers. And One company that helps them do this is Vestible. 

Vestible is an investment company that allows athletes to sell shares of equity in their careers. Co-founder, Parker Graham says they recruit athletes based purely on their performance and who they believe will have a successful career trajectory. And similar to IPOs in the stock exchange, investors are offered a chance to invest in the athletes. After this offering period, the ‘stock’ is open to the public.

This is appealing for sport fans. Like Matthew-David Ilomuanya, who says he’d invest in athletes especially since he has a skill for seeing talent early in their careers.

NIKFARDJAM: What does that mean? 

MD ILOMUANYA: I pick them right, so like, I used to play a lot of, um, games where you can, do a career mode, where you can, pick them when you're young. All the players that I picked to, buy and put in my team have all become, like, really, really good players. And so I think I have a pretty good track record of saying, okay, like, this player has, like, these certain traits and their stats look good, and I think they'll have a good career.

NIKFARDJAM: It’s as simple as it sounds, but that doesn’t necessarily make it safe. Victor Matheson, a sports economist at Holy Cross says that there are certain risks that come with investing in athletes.

VICTOR MATHESON: investing in a college athlete, uh, is, is an extraordinarily risky position, uh, uh, you know, investment. Because we have no idea what that athlete is, is going to do. We haven't seen them against high level, uh, high level opponents. We haven't, we don't have a lot of evidence about them. Once we know enough information about these athletes, these athletes are probably already on the, on the downhill part of  their career.

NIKFARDJAM: Even though this is a riskier investment, it might actually be a more appealing option for athletes - especially at the college level. Most college athletes have to rely on sponsorships from NILs - again that stands for name, image, and likeness. Sydney Loder, a track and field athlete at Columbia University. She says that NIL deals – aren’t as lucrative as getting paid directly, because they often come in the form of product deals.

SYDNEY LODER: Yeah, so I've had multiple teammates go through NIL deals. It sometimes gets to the point where like they're having to post a lot and like their entire feed of social media becomes this one product that they're in a contract to promote.It gets in the way of the sport a little bit.

NIKFARDJAM: Loder says sometimes the payoff isn’t worth the effort. She and others like her would rather just get the money. 

Which is also Matheson’s point of contention. He says the real issue here –  is that college athletes are not being paid for their labor – so they HAVE to find other way to make money – 

MATHESON: pay the athletes. These athletes are working for colleges. The colleges should pay the athletes. That's literally how every other job in the country works. These students don't need protection from NILs. These students need protection from Charlie Baker and the thugs in the NCAA.

NIKFARDJAM: Virginia's new law might have just opened the door for other schools across the country to pay their athletes. Which might make investment opportunities like these less necessary. Universities in Virginia will start complying on July 1, this means the N-C-double-A has until July to make changes to their COMPENSATION policies. Desiree Nikfardjam, Columbia Radio News.



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