FHSAA approves NIL for high school athletes — June 4, 2024

The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) voted unanimously to allow athletes to earn money from their name, image, and likeness (NIL) during Tuesday’s board of directors meeting in Gainesville. 

This decision aligns Florida with more than 30 other states that have already adopted similar NIL policies.

With this new age of marketing and branding opportunities, there still could be ambiguity regarding what is allowed. 

“We’re entering the great unknown,” Armwood coach Evan Davis said. 

Can college boosters influence a high school recruiters’ decision with a brand deal? Are collectives allowed? What about using high school logos to promote a brand? Are athletes allowed to have agents? 

The FHSAA spent hours, through workshops, seminars and meetings, devoted to erecting guardrails to ensure NIL is not used as a recruiting tool and that school’s logos or marks will not be used. 

Under the approved bylaw, parents or guardians can negotiate deals independent of the school and cannot use anything related to the school, district or the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) for monetization without written consent. 

Other rules include forbidding athletes to sign professional contracts or hiring agents for anything other than NIL related manners. No collectives are allowed. Athletes who transfer to another school in season cannot sign NIL deals and schools cannot use NIL to entice athletes to attend another school. 

“NIL was inevitable,” said Dan LaForest, a registered sports agent and expert in NIL relations who is director of the Influencer Counsel. “It’s a good thing because there is so much year-round training with sports that it is hard for kids to even hold a job. 

“My biggest concern was that it was not used as a recruiting tool like it is at the NCAA level.”

The NIL movement started three years ago when the Supreme Court unanimously agreed with a lower court decision upholding rights for college athletes to receive education-related compensation, ultimately paving the way for NIL. 

Soon after, the FHSAA issued its own statement, emphasizing that even though the limitations of benefits were lifted at the collegiate level, the same rules did not apply to Florida high school athletes.

But the reverberations were felt elsewhere in the prep landscape as numerous other states adopted their own NIL policies.

Those restrictions forced elite athletes in the state to go elsewhere for monetization.

Last summer, former Tampa Catholic basketball standout Karter Knox decided to play for Atlanta-based Overtime Elite, in part because Georgia allowed NIL for high school athletes. 

Knox, a five-star recruit who recently signed with Arkansas, made more than $1 million in NIL as a senior, including an exclusive trading card deal with Fanatics and a shoe deal with Adidas.

“I can’t see a negative with NIL,” said Knox’s father, Kevin Knox Sr. “For many of these athletes, this is life-changing money. It’s a good thing it’s coming here.

“I can’t definitely say that Karter would have stayed had NIL been in place in the state last year, but it certainly would have weighed heavily in the decision.”   

Eventually, the FHSAA softened its stance but still resisted on moving forward with allowing NIL in the state.

Until now. 

“For years, athletic directors were opposed because coaches thought they would lose control of the locker room,” said Darren Heitner, who teaches NIL at Miami Law and is the founder of Heitner Legal, which focuses on Sports, Entertainment, Intellectual Property & Business Law. “I’m glad that it’s here, but it’s really a couple of years too late. The state used to be at the forefront of high school athletics, but we’ve fallen way far behind.”