HONOLULU (KHON2) — A new era is unfolding in college athletics and Hawaii might have an edge to attract some big names.
A new name, image, and likeness ruling that went into effect two weeks ago pave the way for college players to make a profit, and with no major professional teams in the islands, student-athletes could be looking at a large payday from everything from commercials to product endorsements.
Experts say it’s the wild west right now with gray areas aplenty for what is allowed while a market has yet to be set.
Value for athletes looks to be strong with spectator sports like football, but lifestyle marketing manager Jon Nielsen says some women’s sports athletes are set to gain the most from the new ruling.
“The female athlete is going to market the most because of their following. They tend to have more followers on Instagram, Tik Tok, and those things,” Nielsen said. “So now they can be paid to be influencers in college.”
Part of his work is connecting athletes like the former University of Hawaii and current Major League Baseball star Kolten Wong with Hawaii companies. He says this could also benefit local businesses.
“With Young’s Fishmarket with Kolten’s plate, who is to say we can’t do a Calvin Turner plate?” Nielsen said. “Zippy’s can’t partner with him to do that?”
UH was punished by the NCAA in 1976 after men’s basketball players appeared in a Cutter Ford commercial. In 2020 Hawaii State Senator Gilbert Keith-Agaran introduced a name, image, and likeness bill that would have allowed college athletes to get paid for advertisements.
“Part of it was the trauma growing up in Hawaii and remembering when the O’Neil basketball teams got put on probation at UH just for the kids appearing in an automobile commercial,” Keith-Agaran said.
The legislation stalled in the house. Now, local lawmakers are waiting on the NCAA’s rules to see if further legislation will be necessary.
“If they don’t provide rules that make sense then legislatures in California and other states will probably act I think we would do the same,” Keith-Agaran said.
For now, Nielsen says there’s still a lot to figure out.
“Who’s to say that somebody can’t make a shell corporation and funnel money to you,” Nielson said. “I don’t know. There’s more questions than answers, and I don’t know who’s staff is going to really police this.”
The University of Hawaii says they’re still working out a plan to educate athletes so they know what they’re doing with name, image, and likeness deals.