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NIL Rights Would Give Many Female College Athletes Greater Earnings Than Men

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If student athletes were granted name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights, the top women’s basketball players in this year’s Elite Eight would have greater earning power than the top men, athlete marketing platform Opendorse, through Axios, estimates.

University of Louisville Cardinals freshman guard Hailey Van Lith would be worth nearly a million dollars per year, the platform estimated. Her combined social media following of 696,000 ranks second only to Paige Bueckers, a 19-year-old point guard for the UConn Huskies. With a combined 730,000 followers, however, Bueckers would have an estimated annual earnings of up to $382,000, 40 percent of Van Lith’s annual worth.

Third on the list is Jalen Suggs, point guard and shooting guard for the Gonzaga Bulldogs. With a combined following of 325,000, he could earn nearly half a million dollars per year, Opendorse estimated.

The platform’s estimates took into account engagement rate, market size, overall sponsorship and athletic department revenue by school. With this data, it found that eight of the 10 most-followed players —  and 10 of the top 20 — are women.

To make the list, Opendorse combined the 20 most-followed players on Twitter and Instagram plus their estimated annual earnings. The estimate took into account multiple factors such as engagement rate, market size, and the schools’ overall sponsorship and athletic department revenue.

NIL Rights in College Sports

Since 2003, college sports industry profits have increased 3.5-fold, from $4 billion to over $14 billion in 2018. Student athletes, however, go begging, receiving only sports scholarships which cover room, board, tuition, and books at most.

Last year, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) petitioned the Supreme Court to preserve amateurism in college sports to avoid having to pay players more than their current compensation, which is essentially limited to the cost of attending college.

The NCAA petition argued that if student athletes were paid it would eliminate the difference between college and professional sports.

But fundamental changes seem to be coming.

Last month, the Iowa state legislature proposed a bill that would allow student athletes to profit from their NIL rights. The state became the latest in a sweeping movement to grant players in college sports the right to earn from promotional activities.

The movement was started in 2019 by California, when the state passed groundbreaking NIL legislation slated to take effect in 2023.

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