March 24, 2023 

Locked on Women’s Basketball: International NIL

Gabriella Levine joins host Natalie Heavren to break down the unique situation in the world of NIL for UConn's international players.

It’s time for another episode of the Locked on Women’s Basketball podcast. In this episode, host and The Next’s Atlantic 10 beat reporter is joined by Gabriella Levine, a contributing writer at The Next with a background as a litigation attorney, to discuss Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) rules and how international student-athletes face even more restrictions than the average player. Specifically, they look at NIL issues facing a handful of student-athletes at UConn, the specific differences they experience, and how the university is working to address this issue moving forward.

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Gabriella on the grey areas that exist for international students whose visas prohibit “work” while they are in the United States:

The whole thing is grey basically. When the NCAA opened the doors to NIL in July 2021, they said that international players could benefit. They had these questions and answers that they published, and that was one of the answers that they gave. What did that mean? Who knows. But as we now know, it wasn’t true. Since that time, since July 2021, there hasn’t been any guidance at any level. Whether it’s from the NCAA, whether it’s from the Department of Homeland Security, whether it’s from the federal government, it has been silent. It’s been crickets on how international players can operate in the NIL world … and that has led to the grey area.

There are no rules that we know of when it comes to NIL and international players. Part of the reason for that is that the prohibition of an F-1 visa (student visa) holder from engaging in work when they’re in the United States … stems from a federal regulation [that] was created well before NIL became a thing.

Gabriella speaks about how UConn’s NIL store functions in the grey area to still benefit international players who can’t do normal NIL deals:

So what UConn did is they formed a partnership with the UConn NIL store. UConn’s men’s and women’s basketball players each have individual lockers on the store. … Nika [Muhl’s] locker right now, she’s got custom t-shirts, she’s got her jersey, she’s got other gear on there with her name and her number on it. Any sale of any item on that platform nets the athlete a return. So if you buy one jersey … it nets that athlete anywhere between $6 and $15 on that sale. So it’s putting money directly into the athlete’s pocket for any sale of merchandise that occurs on their platform.

The way that they worked this out when it comes to international players is they view it as what’s called “passive income.” So in the grey area, in which most students, most schools and most lawyers operate in NIL, it’s generally understood that if an international player is doing something in exchange for something that is generally unauthorized work. But with passive income, a player isn’t doing anything at all [and therefore is not work.]

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Written by The Next

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