First appeared in BOXSCORE
By Aron Solomon
The short answer is yes.
The longer answer is more complicated and something I dug into because of a Twitter thread.
The Jesse in issue is Jesse Edwards, a Syracuse University basketball player who just entered the transfer portal for the stated reason that he wanted better NIL deals.
Edwards is from Amsterdam and in the U.S., one would assume, on a student visa. As per Wikipedia, after graduating high school in the Netherlands, Edwards went on to play for IMG Academy, a boarding school in Bradenton, Florida, then headed to play for the Mighty Orange in Syracuse.
Assuming that Edwards doesn’t have U.S. citizenship through a parent, he faces the same visa restrictions that prohibit any international student from earning multiple types of income while on U.S. student visas.
Yet when it comes to NIL, loopholes seem to be the rule rather than the exception.
While NIL activities are not explicitly permitted or prohibited by law or by F-1 student immigration regulations, the NCAA has indicated that international student athletes can “benefit” from their NIL. However, international student athletes face challenges in determining whether their income from NIL activities would violate their visa restrictions. In fact, an online petition seeks to change the rules so that international students can earn money through the NCAA’s name, image, and likeness rules.
There are also, as highlighted in a recent piece in Business of College Sports, two types of visas (the O-1 and P-1) that are being used to empower international student athletes to earn NIL revenue.
As Florida attorney, Adriana Gonzalez, explains:
“The O-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa granted to individuals who possess extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. The P-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa available for individuals who are recognized as operating at a very high level within their field, particularly athletes and entertainers.”
The larger question here, from the perspective of the business of NCAA sports, is whether NIL has just become another tool, along with the transfer portal itself, for student-athletes to turn the historical tables on the school and the NCAA to make their personal services pay-to-play.
That opens a massive can of legal worms for all parties involved – a can that won’t easily be resealed.
The debate on whether college athletes should be paid to play remains a highly contentious one, especially now that we have entered the era where student-athletes can be paid for their name, image, and likeness.
Those in favor of paying college athletes argue that playing sports is a full-time job and that athletes bring in a substantial amount of money to their colleges. They also argue that paying athletes would help to reduce the risk of corruption and exploitation.
On the other hand, those against paying college athletes argue that student-athletes receive scholarships and other benefits that are worth a significant amount of money. They also argue that paying athletes would create an unfair playing field and that it would be difficult to determine how much each athlete should be paid.
While these arguments seem pretty elementary in the NIL era, they’re actually not. They’re foundational arguments that drive tools such as the transfer portal.
What really needs to happen is for some governing body (the reality is that there a better chance of it being the courts rather than the NCAA) to set more transparent and fair rules that allow students to be compensated for their labor without needing to complicate the process of schools and coaches predicting where their players will be next season.
About Aron Solomon
A Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer, Aron Solomon, JD, is the Chief Legal Analyst for Esquire Digital and the Editor-in-Chief for Today’s Esquire. He has taught entrepreneurship at McGill University and the University of Pennsylvania, and was elected to Fastcase 50, recognizing the top 50 legal innovators in the world. Aron has been featured in Forbes, CBS News, CNBC, USA Today, ESPN, TechCrunch, The Hill, BuzzFeed, Fortune, Venture Beat, The Independent, Fortune China, Yahoo!, ABA Journal, Law.com, The Boston Globe, YouTube, NewsBreak, and many other leading publications.