Christian Athletes Know How to Build Platforms for Jesus. Can They Brand Themselves?

NIL deals in college athletics present new challenges—and opportunities—for colleges and students.

When Deverin Muff played Division I college basketball at Eastern Kentucky University, student athletes weren’t allowed to earn money off their name, image, and likeness (NIL)—their personal brand.

Now he’s a professor at the university, and some of the players in his classes have agents. An NCAA policy change in 2021—heralded by Muff and other Christian athletes as a matter of fairness—allows college athletes to earn money beyond financial aid or scholarships.

“This is a matter of justice, frankly. … It righted a historic wrong,” said Pepperdine University sports administration professor Alicia Jessop. College sports, especially football and basketball, draw in billions in revenue.

Christians in college athletics have welcomed the change to allow NIL deals, according to interviews with CT. But they are also navigating an unknown landscape and finding challenges along the way. The NCAA itself is still reeling from the resulting shifts in the economics of college sports, passing additional NIL rules just last week.

Jessop was recently teaching a class on NIL deals at Pepperdine, where she is also the faculty representative to the NCAA. One student decided to put the class into practice immediately and reached out to a sunglasses brand to pitch a deal. In a short time, the student had a free pair of sunglasses delivered.

“It’s a teaching tool,” said Jessop. “They think they’re learning about NIL so they’re focused, but they’re getting a whole business curriculum put in front of them.”

Under the new NCAA rules passed last week, schools can be more directly involved in NIL deals and they can offer a support system that helps educate students …

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