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Last week, Auburn public relations student Madison Whitney attended the first-ever Name, Image, Likeness, or NIL, summit in Atlanta. Whitney described her experiences and shared her favorite memories from the three-day event in a virtual interview conducted earlier this week.

Whitney’s journey to the summit began in the Fall when MELT, a sports marketing agency based out of Atlanta, hired her to manage social media during Tipoff at Toomer’s, one of Auburn University’s biggest events. After a successful media takeover, Whitney impressed the professionals, even receiving a job offer, “I was on my way to Atlanta to go shopping when I received a call from one of the managers; she asked what year I was going into and was disappointed to hear I had another year of school left, she said, ‘So, I can’t hire you, can I?’ I was then told that they would bring me down to Atlanta to do more social media work at the NIL summit in the summer.”

Instituted by the Supreme Court of the United States in July of 2021, NIL allows collegiate athletes to earn money from their name, image and likeness. The NCAA, the governing body of college athletics, had long argued that athletes should not be able to make money from things like jersey sales, autographs and promotions.

The passing of this new rule allowed athletes to sign brand deals, hire agents and be compensated for athletic prowess. It also helps the 95 percent of athletes who do not become professionals build futures.

While this ruling opened up many opportunities for athletes, the NIL rules are still in their infancy.

“This is so new, so many athletes, schools and brands are still figuring out how this stuff works,” Whitney said. “That is one of the reasons attending this summit was so interesting. I loved hearing about the different endorsements and deals each attendee had. All of it is still new; we aren’t even in the first years of this really, we are in the pre-years.

“All of these athletes, brands and schools are drawing the blueprint.”

While the argument of whether NCAA athletes get compensated has been going on for quite some time, it wasn’t until recently that it was put on the hot seat. Some athletes protested under the hashtag #NotNCAAProperty, most notably, Rutgers Men’s Basketball guard Geo Baker. Baker’s protest among others is credited with speeding up the process of passing NIL laws.

The NIL Summit had quite the list of guest speakers and attendees. Just a few of the highlighted guest speakers were NFL veteran Tim Tebow, ESPN sportscaster Charly Arnolt, WWE superstar Paul "Triple H" Levesque and Auburn’s very own gymnast Derrian Goubourne. Other attendees included Auburn gymnast Morgan Leigh Oldham, NFL Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis, NCAA women's basketball star Sedona Prince and many other talented student-athletes. Many brands and agencies also made the journey to Atlanta, including Celsius, INFLCR, Meta, Invesco QQQ, Wasserman, Underarmor and Twitter.

“I absolutely loved hearing the guest speakers,” Whitney said. “Tim Tebow had such a cool lecture on crypto and NFTs.”

Whitney also was a fan of the Innovation & Monetization In The Eyes Of A Female Athlete panel featuring some of the best female athletes in the country, including Sedona Prince, Jada Williams, Faith Masonius and Fran Belibi.

“The panel was so fascinating to hear,” she said. “They spoke a lot about how NIL is able to help female athletes receive the attention they might not otherwise receive when compared to male athletes. There was a time during this summit when female athletes who had once a regional, conference or national championship were asked to stand up, and five or six people stood. I couldn’t believe it, I hadn’t even heard about these amazing teams and athletes, so it is awesome that NIL will help shed light on these athletes and the incredible things they do.”

NIL will continue to change and grow as the pavement sets. As more and more athletes, brands, schools and agents explore the new realm of NIL deals, it is expected that new laws and regulations will be implemented. Either way, it is exciting to watch unfold, and more NIL summits like the one Whitney attended will help guide the way.

Whitney will enter her senior year at Auburn in the fall.