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How NIL is Transforming College Sports for Female Athletes

By: Kenz Assaf

Fewer than 2 percent of all college athletes will go on to play professional sports, according to a 2020 NCAA report. For women's basketball, the odds are less than 1 in 100, with only 0.8 percent of players turning pro. That is exactly why the long-awaited NIL policy change that has allowed female athletes to recount their experiences in a new landscape has led to the development of fruitful sponsorships and deals. Since the implementation of the new policy, college athletes across the nation have profited off the new era of collegiate sports, and so far, female athletes have been early winners, reaping the benefits of endorsement deals.

Nike co-founder, Phil Knight, and other notable Oregon alumni recently announced the launch of Division Street Inc. The new venture aims to assist Oregon athletes in building their brand and monetizing their NIL. More recently, Division Street announced they would unveil their first NFT NIL program to financially benefit all participating women student-athletes. Not only is this a major step forward in terms of the vast potential and advancements of NIL deals, this project also aims to mitigate sex-segregated, discrimination and gaps in collegiate sports.

Prior to NIL, female athletes weren't eligible to receive monetary compensation for their hard work because of their status as an NCAA athlete. They also didn't have the same professional opportunities as men. In the NIL space however, top female athletes are thriving even after critics once suggested women’s sports would never get any attention on the open market and that they proclaimed that state-mandated NIL reform would lead to a worsening of the gender divide of college sports. In reality, women’s college athletes have been some of the biggest beneficiaries of college sports’ 2021 economic reform according to an article published in the Forbes Journal. With NIL, these remarkable athletes are now able to build social media empires and gain financial stability that could set them up for their professional athletic careers and beyond.

Although there have been some advancements since the implementation of new NIL policies, it is still important to note that the gender divide in college sports continues to exist. According to Opendorse, Men’s Division I athletes have earned 73.5% of total NIL compensation since July 1, 2021, with women claiming only 26.5%, meaning the sport’s top stars have disproportionately profited. Although theNIL Era has made an immediate impact and has led to recent developments in NIL representing a sign and signal of the future direction of women’s sports as a whole, the reform has also highlighted the existing gender divide in college sports that has systematically underserved female athletes. The hope is that brands, collectives and other stakeholders in NIL will invest more in female athletes to reach 50% of NIL compensation going to female athletes in the future.

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