‘It’s all legal’: foreign college athletes profit from home

LONDON (AP) – Miami punter Lou Hedley had to fly 13,000 miles to Western Australia to cash in on his name.

The tattooed Australian and thousands of other international athletes at American colleges have been told they cannot profit from his name, image and likeness on American soil – although interpretations vary as to what constitutes work – so some are returning home to do so. .

In Hedley’s case, it was a 37-hour trip that included a long layover in Qatar.

“It’s a pain in the back to have to fly, but it’s all worth it,” Hedley told the Associated Press after a day of filming promotional ads for LifeWallet in the city of Perth, where he was also visiting family ahead of its final season. with hurricanes this fall. “I feel like I deserve a little money, I contributed wealth to the team (with) my name, image and likeness… three years.”

Hedley declined to specify an exact amount, but confirmed that his NIL deal is in line with his teammates at around $50,000. Miami attorney John Ruiz has been actively recruiting Hurricanes into NIL settlements through his healthcare company LifeWallet.

Hedley, 28, one of Australia’s many college football punters, said he didn’t sign anything until he landed at Down Under.

“The work is all done here, paid here. As long as I’m doing all my work in Australia, I’m getting paid in Australia, paying taxes in Australia and all that stuff, everything is legal,” he said.

Nebraska basketball player Jaz Shelley also took a trip home to Australia for NIL business, and teammate Isabelle Bourne planned to follow suit. Dayton’s 1.90m forward Mustapha Amzil announced on social media that when he plays for his Finland national team this summer, he will be “open to any deals and sponsorship deals”.

Overall, though, international athletes are finding the waters of the NIL difficult to navigate, with mixed messages about what is right, even now nearly a year after the NCAA lifted restrictions.

Some schools have told them to avoid NIL agreements altogether because it could compromise their visa status. Others say off American soil is fine. Ultimately, the federal government is the arbiter of visa and deportation issues.

“There’s a lot of ambiguity,” said Casey Floyd, co-founder of NOCAP Sports, which is working with athletes to secure agreements and advocating regulatory clarity. “You go to some schools and they’re very flexible… and then you have a lot of schools that they just don’t want to play because they’re too afraid of the ramifications.”

West Virginia international athletes, for example, “are not participating in NIL opportunities due to current enforcement of federal immigration regulations,” said spokesman Michael Fragale. Drexel has urged its overseas athletes to “please refrain from entering into an NIL agreement or engaging in remunerated NIL activities,” wrote Mladenka Tomasevic, executive director of International Students and Scholars Services, in February.

It’s a different story in Nebraska, where the women’s basketball program tweeted: “The international NIL became possible!” adding that when Shelley and Bourne arrive on Australian soil, “they will be legally qualified to participate in the NIL activity.” Shelley then promoted her t-shirts and hoodies, as well as a Lincoln restaurant.

The University of Florida told its internationals planning NIL activities in their home countries to “properly document their physical location”, providing Form I-94 arrival/departure records, “flight itinerary and overseas port of entry stamp” ”.

Cal’s basketball player Sam Alajiki of Ireland hopes to stay in Berkeley to promote Next Up Recruitment, a Manchester, England-based company that helps athletes get scholarships.

“It will literally retweet content. There’s no way this could be considered work,” said Next Up founder Ryan Cook, who also explored withholding escrow payments or becoming an admin of Alajiki’s social media account and posting that way.

“The last thing we want is to break someone’s visa status,” he said. “We are also working with the compliance team at Cal to make sure all is well. We have not received any counterattack.”

Just in case, though, the deal doesn’t start until September. Until then, there may be specific guidance from the NCAA or relevant government agencies.

The NCAA’s initial board said international athletes are covered under the NIL’s interim policy, but that students “may consider” consulting their school’s compliance officer “for guidance related to maintaining their immigration status and tax implications.” . If you have questions, you should write to the US Exchange Student and Visitor Program.

That program – SEVP – “continues to evaluate” the issue, said Sarah Loicano, a spokeswoman for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe of Congo is among those urging Congress to help foreign student athletes. The AP Player of the Year, who is returning for his senior season, recently met with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to plead his case. The financial benefit to Tshiebwe could exceed seven figures.

The vast majority of athletes hold F-1 visas that largely prohibit off-campus work. Campus work is heavily restricted. Foreign students at the high school and preparatory level also stand to gain.

TCU tight end Alexander Honig of Germany said he didn’t pursue the “super small” deals he was offered.

“Lately I’ve been very focused on my athletic path,” said Honig, who was recruited as a centre-back. “I think I need to get on the field first and perform at a high level before I have to worry about the NIL.”

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