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The NCAA’s NIL Bylaws Must Change for Female Student-Athletes

By: Zach Weisleder

The NCAA’s pitiless behavior towards its female student-athletes extends far beyond its recent weight room controversy.

The conversation surrounding the NCAA’s ban on athletes being able to profit from their name, image, and likeness (NIL) is at the forefront of the sports world. However, the conversation surrounding the fact that these regulations pay shorter shrift to its female athletes needs to be put under the spotlight.

With impending legislation set to allow student-athletes to monetize from their name, it’s important to correct biased, gender-based claims, and explore how female athletes at the collegiate level can benefit just as much as their male counterparts if given branding opportunities.

The NCAA Men’s and Women’s National Championship games are just days away (Sunday, April 4 & Monday, April 5). A study by Axios released on March 29 shows that eight of the ten most-followed NCAA basketball athletes from this past weekend’s slate of games are women.

In simpler terms, if these athletes had control over their NIL rights, the top women’s players would be earning more than top men.

Opendorse combined the Instagram and Twitter follower counts for the 20 most-followed players in the tournament, and what their estimated annual earnings would be if there were branding opportunities for each athlete.

People with large and highly engaged social media followings can monetize in ways that were unthinkable 10 years ago. Whether it’s a YouTube, Instagram, or even Snapchat partnership, an influencer can leverage their social-media followings and make more than just a regular living off of it. Female college athletes are quietly at the forefront.

Those in agreement with the current NCAA regulations argue that these athletes are going to school for free. However, some of them forget that the organization collects more than $14 billion annually from college sports programs or are simply trying to hide that clear narrative.

UConn Freshman, Paige Bueckers, Instagram following has risen beyond 700,000 followers. Unlike her male counterparts who could have sought monetization by skipping college altogether and instead join the NBA G-League, Bueckers has been victim to the NCAA’s rules. Bueckers will undoubtedly play in the WNBA, but the majority of her competition will not. There must be an avenue for athletes in the NCAA to monetize outside of their sport, especially because their skill won’t likely garner them an opportunity to continue playing after college.

This year’s March Madness has put the inequities between both the men’s and women’s tournaments under the spotlight more than ever before. Hopefully, the future will present equal marketing opportunities for both male and female collegiate athletes and finally dismisses this biased narrative.

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