MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee high school athletes don’t have to wait until college to profit off their talents anymore.
The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) changed its bylaws Thursday.
“Students may receive payment for activities not related to the performance provided that they are carried out in a manner that does not suggest or reasonably suggest the endorsement or sponsorship of the TSSAA school.”
However, some coaches still haven’t figured out if they think this move is a good idea for their teams and athletes.
They think this could extend to larger deals for some students than just getting paid for coaching on the side.
“We have families that need extra streams of revenue and income coming in. Some of these young men can use this to save money for when they are going to college. I just want things to stay above board,” said Hillsboro High School head football coach Anthony Brown.
It was a concern shared by East Nashville High head football coach Jamaal Stewart.
“You mix athletics, money, and kids you really don’t know what you are going to get,” he said. “I just don’t want these kids to feel like they are being used.”
Brown and Stewart also worried that while the change in the bylaws doesn’t seem to allow athletes to be poached by other teams with potential endorsement deals or an incentive from wealthy alumni, they weren’t sure how that would be monitored.
“On the outside looking in, a private school or a certain type of school can say, ‘If you come over here, we can print you these shirts out to sell and no one will ever know,'” Stewart said.
They also questioned whether kids who are often already going to jobs before or after practice or bringing their younger siblings to sit in the stands while they train would have time and enough oversight to carefully review these deals.
“So now you have kids and families that are probably working two to three jobs to survive, and now you want them to read the fine print of these contracts?” Stewart asked.
But the internal conflict rose within them while they were thinking about what a few thousand dollars would mean to some of these families.
“A lot of our kids do work and have part-time jobs,” said Lewis County High School head football coach Derek Rang. “[They} are familiar with having a job and being accountable and reliable from that end of it.”
Rang said as a more rural school, he is less concerned than others about his athletes being lured to another program. He explained that many of them grew up with their teammates and would find it difficult to attend a school farther away from home.
Attorney Daniel Greene with Newman & Lickstein has expertise in name, image, and likeness (NIL) law and said Tennessee is one of about 20 or more states to recently approve endorsements for high school athletes.
Greene said as more states decided to permit NIL, it became harder for other states to resist.
“Everybody in this country has the right to publicity. And for a long time, that right to publicity was not extended to college athletes pursuant to NCAA rules. And a lot of high school athletes, as well, based on the varying bylaws and rules of the various high school athletic associations,” Greene said.
He explained that if a state does not permit NIL now, they could be opening themselves up to potential lawsuits.
“I think they want to get ahead of any rule that might prohibit NIL,” he said. “Somebody could go to challenge a rule for a state that doesn’t permit this and say it is against the right to publicity and they could point to a bunch of the states that have changed their rules in the past 12 months.”
Yet, while the rules for the athletes have changed, coaches hope the game itself stays the same.