Topeka — Now that college athletes are allowed to make money from their names, images and likenesses, some University of Kansas men’s basketball players are already hoping to take advantage of the opportunity.
The NCAA’s interim NIL policy, which took effect Thursday, lets players make money through a variety of avenues, such as social media posts, autograph sales or advertisements. On the first day, several KU players — freshman Bobby Pettiford, sophomore Joseph Yesufu, junior Christian Braun and super-senior Mitch Lightfoot — had already posted on social media that they were interested in NIL opportunities.
“It is a monumental day in the world of college athletics,” Lightfoot tweeted. “This is not only an opportunity for me and my teammates, but an opportunity for us to connect the Lawrence community and mutually benefit.”
Lightfoot then became the first player to land an opportunity. He tweeted from his personal account on Thursday night about his partnership with a junk removal service in Kansas City.
"After being voted as the player with the messiest locker, I figured it was only fitting to have my first partnership be with 1-800-GOT-JUNK?," Lightfoot wrote in the tweet that included a photo of him wearing a company polo. "Can’t wait to help bring their multitude of services to the entire Kansas City area."
It is only a matter of time before other players follow suit based on the initial reaction. Pettiford told reporters on Thursday that a few hours after his social media posts he had already gotten responses from “a few people.”
“It’s definitely cool,” Pettiford said Thursday, while working at Brett Ballard’s Washburn University basketball camp. “You get to brand yourself. You get to make money off yourself, so it’s great.”
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Another player working at the Washburn camp, super-senior Jalen Coleman-Lands, has learned plenty about branding and messaging during his college career. The transfer guard, who most recently played for Iowa State, earned a marketing degree at one of his previous schools, DePaul. He also has founded a nonprofit organization, FigurePrint, to help young people overcome communication barriers in their homes.
“It’s kind of a long time coming,” Coleman-Lands said of the NIL changes. “But, I mean, I think it’s something that could be really good for the players and just the NCAA. It’s good for basketball.
“You can allow people to fully brand themselves,” he added. “Players bring a lot to a team, not only on the court, but off the court. Just being able to, as a holistic person, brand yourself.”
As for his own brand, Coleman-Lands said he needs to do a little more research. He wants to figure out the rules and restrictions that apply to NIL opportunities before he jumps in.
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Not all players are champing at the bit to earn money from NIL opportunities. Some, like Coleman-Lands, want to make sure they know how everything works first. And others, like super-senior Cam Martin, simply have other priorities.
This will be the lone season in Lawrence for Martin, previously a two-time NCAA Division II All-American at Missouri Southern. Right now he wants to use his limited time in college hoops to just focus on his performance on the court.
“I’m a little different than the other guys, because some of the freshmen have like four years of this,” Martin said. “I got 10 months at KU. My main priority is just winning games and getting better.”
But that doesn’t mean he’s opposed to the NIL policy, or even that he wouldn’t consider using it himself.
“If I have some free time where I can do some stuff with this, I’m going to do it, of course,” he said. “But that’s not really a main priority for me right now.”
Martin said just having the options available would make a difference for players and change the landscape of college sports for the better.
“I think it’s really good,” he said. “It’s going to definitely change college basketball, and every sport for that matter, but I think it’s long overdue. I think it’s a good thing and (will) help the players out for sure.”
“This is something that can definitely set players up for the rest of their life,” he added.