NIL Enriches, Empowers Women College Athletes

Women college athletes aren't just making money from the NCAA's name, image, and likeness policy, past and present athletes said. They're also now free to volunteer, mentor, and fight for social change.

March 31, 2022 · Updated on April 4, 2022

Edited by Alex Pasquariello
NIL Enriches, Empowers Women College Athletes
College Sports
Photo by Rebecca Noble / Stringer / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

  • College athletes have been able to profit off their name, image, and likeness since July 2021.
  • The change in NCAA policy came after decades of debate and strong pushback from the association.
  • Women athletes spoke at a panel convened by Sen. Chris Murphy, who is leading the charge to regulate college athletics in Congress.

University of Oregon basketball star Sedona Prince has a message for those that feared the NCAA's name, image, and likeness policy would harm women's college sports: She and other athletes are benefitting from the opportunity to run their own lives.

"Without NIL, I would not have as many opportunities," Prince said in a virtual panel discussion hosted by U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy. "I would kind of be forced into this path of going to the WNBA, earn about $60,000 a year and just run my body down until I'm not able to walk in my 50s, which is so sad that it is such a reality that we have to face as women athletes.

"So now I have that freedom where I can just live the life that I want and invest my money correctly, doing well and get money to put to the future. It is incredible," she added.

NIL's impact on women's sports was one of several issues covered in a series of virtual panel discussions hosted by Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat leading the charge to regulate college athletics in Congress.

Participants also included fellow Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Cory Booker, as well as Democratic Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Lori Trahan. The bicameral group supports federal legislation that would provide national standards for NIL and provide a bill of rights for college athletes.

“Without NIL, I would not have as many opportunities”

— Sedona Prince

Athlete participants included Cornell University volleyball player Sydney Moore, University of Northern Colorado football player Kassidy Woods, professional tennis player Brittany Collens who played at the University of Massachusetts, and Katie Lever of the Drake Group, who was a runner at Western Kentucky University.

Prince went viral during the 2021 NCAA women's basketball tournament when she posted on her social media a video showing the stark inequities in the facilities provided to women's basketball players.

The video ignited a firestorm of criticism of the NCAA, forcing the organization to hire an independent law firm to conduct a two-phased gender equity review of all its championships. The first report by Kaplan Hecker & Fink was released last August and focused solely on the men's and women's basketball championships.

It spurred changes, such as using March Madness marketing for both the Division I Men's and Women's Basketball Championships. NCAA Associate Director of Communications Meghan Durham told BestColleges earlier this month that the organization had "prioritized the student-athlete experience" for both tournaments.

Prince told the panel that without NIL, her life as a college athlete would be very different because she now has a platform from which she can profit and create positive social change.

"The biggest thing for me is choosing companies that help people, sustainable companies, women's sports companies that help other women get deals. That's kind of like my passion and so me being able to do that is putting my mark, my brand onto something else that's way more important."

Trahan, a former Division I volleyball player, noted how the experiences of Prince and other women athletes was so different from what had been predicted.

"When removing name, image, and likeness restrictions was being debated, I remember many experts claiming that it would be the end of women's sports as we know it and clearly that is not the case," Trahan said in the panel.

“Female athletes are doing very, very well in the name, image and likeness space”

— Katie Lever

Lever agreed, saying, "Female athletes are doing very, very well in the name, image and likeness space." In fact, NIL is proving to be important to helping "forge gender equity" in college sports. She cited information from Opendorse that shows women basketball players are second only to football players in NIL compensation.

Trahan noted that NIL also had freed college athletes to do such things as volunteering at summer sports camps, something she couldn't do while a college athlete. It also makes it possible for athletes like Moore to benefit from their work as mentors. Moore works with Voice In Sport, an advocacy group that works with young female athletes.

"Prior to NIL I wasn't eligible to receive monetary compensation for my work at Voice In Sport for over a year that I worked there because of my status as an NCAA athlete, but that is a crucial point to being able to do the work that I do," Moore explained.

Lever explained that female collegiate athletes don't have the same professional opportunities as men and for that reason NIL will have long-term effects.

"It's very empowering for female athletes to generate money from their NILs because that's money that can be used after graduation" to start a business or to pay for graduate school, Lever said.