A series of roundtable discussions held this year with college athletic stakeholders reveals an inconsistency in NIL approaches at universities nationwide and the need for government guidance.
WASHINGTON and LOS ANGELES, Nov. 28, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — BAL, the globally integrated corporate immigration law firm helping businesses, organizations and individuals navigate complex immigration issues, released today its findings on the impact of the U.S. government’s absence of policies regarding name, image and likeness (NIL) for international student athletes on F-1 visas.
Earlier this year, BAL conducted a series of roundtable discussions with representatives from college athletics and compliance programs from dozens of Division I schools. These discussions, facilitated by the BAL Sports & Entertainment and Government Strategies teams, confirmed the need for immigration guidance from federal agencies on F-1 student athletes’ participation in NIL. Roundtable participants indicated that the lack of guidance from the government and Congress has created inconsistency and uncertainty in schools’ approaches to NIL and puts foreign students at risk. While many universities have taken a cautious, conservative approach, limiting all or most NIL activities by foreign students, some programs have been able to capitalize on the lack of clear guidance and enforcement, gaining a competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining top talent.
“The college sports market for NIL opportunities is heating up, and we must not overlook that international student athletes are being excluded from lucrative deals,” said Gabriel Castro, senior associate at BAL and head of BAL’s Los Angeles office and Sports & Entertainment practice. “There is a pivotal need to standardize NIL rules so that students on an F-1 visa can receive fair compensation without violating the terms of their visa. Prioritizing student rights levels the playing field and fosters culturally inclusive campuses, while also enabling U.S. companies to work with foreign college athletes on domestic soil, contributing to American economic growth.”
BAL Senior Counsel and lead for the Washington D.C. office, Tiffany Derentz, who previously served as a senior advisor at the U.S. Department of State said, “The government cannot wait for Congress to act. The government agencies overseeing F-1 foreign students can and should publish clarifying policies on permissible NIL activities in which F-1 student athletes may engage.”
Key observations from the roundtables include:
- Schools want guidance. Across the board, schools said they want clear, precise guidance defining what NIL activities are permissible for F-1 foreign student athletes. More than any specific recommendation, schools were united on this point. They want clarity.
- Students are vulnerable. Absent guidance, athletic departments are under tremendous pressure to find workarounds or loopholes to attract and retain foreign student athletes. Some schools have promised foreign student athletes guaranteed NIL participation, despite the lack of clear rules on whether such activities are permissible on F-1 visas. This exposes students to potential visa violations, which could permanently affect their ability to travel to the U.S. to work, study or live.
- The playing field is uneven. The lack of immigration policy has led many schools to take a conservative approach, excluding foreign student athletes from NIL activities, including team-wide NIL deals. This creates inequities among not only players but also schools, some of which are less cautious. The exclusion of foreign student athletes from NIL activities complicates team and locker room dynamics, impacting team performance and morale.
- NIL deals benefit local communities. Permitting foreign student athletes to engage in NIL activities supports economic growth in the U.S. While a handful of multimillion dollar endorsement deals steal the headlines, most happen at the state or local level, supporting jobs in university communities. These communities do not get the full benefit of NIL-related income when foreign student athletes are not allowed to participate. Rather, few U.S. businesses can partner with foreign student athletes, provided they leave the U.S. to conduct NIL activities abroad.
- Foreign athletes are being denied the full student athlete experience. Participating in NIL activities plays an important part in the student athlete experience and the overall development of the student in their educational and cultural experience in the U.S. Though limited options may exist for some foreign student athletes to change their visa to cash in on their NIL, universities are hesitant to pursue these routes as these athletes are first and foremost students, not employees.
These findings, and more, demonstrate the need for the government to issue guidance to address what types of NIL activities are permissible in F-1 visa status. Until then, schools must carefully evaluate the NIL landscape in developing policies that affect foreign student athletes’ abilities to engage in deals.
For more information, please see Gabriel Castro and Tiffany Derentz’s NIL article, “Uneven playing field: F-1 college athletes, NIL and the need for government action,” on bal.com.
Established in 1980, BAL powers human achievement through immigration expertise, people-centered client services and innovative technology. BAL, with 12 offices across the United States and global coverage in more than 185 countries around the world, operates as a single entity through its oneBAL culture — a uniquely holistic approach, intentionally structured as one team, one brand, one P&L, one standard of excellence and one unifying technology. This united approach enables the firm to deliver the highest level of knowledge, insights and resources from across the entire organization. At BAL, we pursue the exceptional. To learn more, visit bal.com.
Originally published at https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/bal-releases-findings-on-the-impact-of-nil-for-international-student-athletes-301999298.html
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