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OHSAA moves closer to deciding on endorsement deals for high school athletes

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The Ohio High School Athletic Association is meeting this month to discuss whether to allow high school athletes to earn money off their name, image or likeness.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association will decide in May whether to allow high school athletes to earn money off their name, image or likeness (NIL).

The association is holding six meetings for its members to discuss this and other bylaws up for vote. The next meeting will be held Wednesday in Clayton, near Dayton. Another meeting is scheduled in Cuyahoga Falls on April 25.

In May, members then will be asked to vote on whether high school athletes can enter into these endorsement deals. A caveat would be that logos from teams, schools or the association cannot be used.

Businesses see it as an effective way to tap into the youth market, as having athletes with big followings on Instagram or TikTok can promote what they’re selling.

NIL deals are allowed for college athletes, and now eight states nationwide are letting high school athletes do the same, according to OHSAA spokesman Tim Stried.

Court decisions opened the way for these amateur athletes to get into NIL contracts, Stried said.

I can't speak for the court, but I would say this really is based on two things," he said. "Number one, especially at the college level, where those student athletes in the past have not been paid, but the universities are making a lot of money on the NIL of their student athletes. I think the other half is that, who are we to tell a person they cannot profit from an image of themself?”

Stried pointed to resistance in other states to amateur athletes signing NIL deals, but he said OHSAA will let its members in Ohio decide.

“That doesn't mean that we're all in love with NIL at the high school level," Stried said. "A lot of us, including me, don't even like it at the college level. However, the courts have spoken. The courts have ruled that this is permitted for amateur athletes, and we have to get out in front of it.”

The final two meetings will be held in Bluffton on April 26 and Cambridge on April 28.

Over the first two weeks of May, members will be asked to cast a referendum vote on each of the proposed bylaws offered by the OHSAA this year. A simple majority determines the outcome, and the new bylaws will go into effect immediately.

Jenny Hamel is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media and calls the eastside of Cleveland home. Prior to that, she was a reporter for KCRW, the NPR affiliate in Los Angeles, covering a range of issues from immigration to politics.