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What does the Supreme Court’s NCAA ruling mean for student athlete entrepreneurship?

Miles Kelley
Hercy Miller and Master P

For decades, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has barred athletes from receiving any compensation while still a student athlete. Despite the fact that colleges, coaches and of course the NCAA itself all make millions per year. Top NCAA coaches receive anywhere up to $1o million per year to coach players that receive nothing. I'm sorry… that isn't true. The athletes receive a free education. (And even on the high end can be valued at about $50,000 per year.) Wait… I'm sorry, that also ins't true. According to an article on NCSASports,org, “Most student-athletes do not receive a full-ride scholarship. In fact, only 1 percent do.”

Many student athletes that come from less than ideal home situations dream of changing their families lives through sports. This has lead to many athletes leaving college early to pursue professional sports. Often times, leaving before they are truly ready for the next level, but the pressures of needing to make money override the rational thoughts of needing more time to develop their craft. Not to mention that at this point, they are also forgoing any additional educational benefits. Because a student athlete cannot receive compensation, they could be forced to make a decision that not only jeopardizes their potential professional aspirations, but they could be destroying a chance to receive an education that will allow a career outside of sports.

But how can you blame these young adults for making this decision? If it was between another year or two of progressing while my mother and siblings struggle back home, the decision is simple. Now due to a new Supreme Court ruling, maybe this decision doesn't have to be made as often.

As of June 21, 2021 the United States Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that college athletes can now profit from their talents while still student athletes. Justice Brett Kavanaugh had this to say:

“Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate. And under ordinary principles of antitrust law, it is not evident why college sports should be any different. The NCAA is not above the law.”

This is a landmark ruling. It is game changing in ways that I don't think we have yet to realize. Allowing our student athletes to profit from their likeness allows them to now become business owners. And student athletes are wasting no time in making business moves. Hercy Miller, the son of rapper and entrepreneur Master P, has inked a historic multi-million dollar endorsement deal. Hercy, who is set to play college basketball at Tennessee State Univesity, has signed a 4-year deal worth $2 million. He will now become a brand ambassador for Web Apps America, a tech company specializing in web, mobile, and software solutions committed to supporting HBCU's.

And I'm sure that this is merely the first domino of many. P is a mastermind in business and entrepreneurship. He started started negotiating deals for his son earlier this year but waited until the new NCAA rule would take effect on July 1 to finally start sealing deals. It is only a matter of time before other athletes, parents and families begin to follow suit. And a $2 million deal out of the gates is a great way to start. P and Hercy setting the bar so high is not only an inspiration to other student athletes, but is also a signal to companies that you cannot try to low ball these players just because they are amateur athletes.

Now obviously, not every NCAA athlete can expect a million dollar endorsement deal. But the possibilities for entrepreneurship are endless. An article in Forbes from 2019 describes the multi-million dollar industry that sports apparel is. Not only do these athletes have the ability to sign endorsement deals, but what's to stop them from building their own companies?

Of course the lives of a student athlete are already extremely demanding. Possibly too demanding to also throw building a business from the ground up on their shoulders. But there are tons of small business owners on every college campus across the country. Now there is nothing to stop an athlete from partnering with that guy that's pressing up tee shirts in his dorm room. Let's not forget the “Catholics vs Convicts” goldmine of 1988. College sports apparel is going to sell. What's to stop a student athlete from launching his/her own brand are partnering with a local company to endorse theirs?

Nothing.

So to all my NCAA student athletes reading this, to all my parents of NCAA athletes reading this, to anyone that cares for the success of any NCAA athletes out there that are reading this… if you don't take anything from this article but one point, I hope it's the fact that you now have the ability to become a business owner. The chances that you become a pro athlete in your sport are very low. But the chances that you can start, maintain and build your own business is unlimited. And now you have a 4 year head start to begin doing so.

The relationships and partnerships that you create in college in some cases are more valuable than the actual education itself. Is your potential business partner down the hall? Do you have a million dollar business idea in your head that you couldn't achieve due to NCAA rules? The time is now. Black Americans are roughly 12% of the population. But over 60% of college athletes are Black. Capitalize on this opportunity to earn and focus in on how your hard work and talent can now work for you.

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