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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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College Sports’ New Threads

  • Since the NIL era began, athletes have waded into apparel sales.
  • Some have launched their own shops, while others are working with companies or school retailers.
Photo: Rand Bleimeister-UCLA Athletics/Design: Alex Brooks

When the clock struck midnight on July 1, athletes started profiting off their NIL. As many predicted, some of the first ventures included sponsorship deals and social media endorsement posts.

But athletes also waded into one of the more traditional ways to make money in the sports world: Apparel sales. 

Some have gone off on their own to manufacture and sell clothes; some have signed on with companies to co-design them; others will be compensated for the use of their names on the backs of official school jerseys.

The Coveted Jersey

Buying a player’s jersey has been one of the most common ways for fans to support their favorite athletes in the pros. That wasn’t possible in NCAA sports until now.

Last week, The M Den, the official licensed retailer for the University of Michigan athletics, announced it would pay football players to have their names on the backs of jerseys, The Action Network first reported. 

As of Tuesday, about 100 players had agreed to the deal, Jared Wangler, whose company Valiant brokered the deal, told FOS. Players will get a cut of sales for the jerseys that will be sold for either $120 or $180 each.

UNC went a step further. The school announced on Tuesday that it is launching a group licensing program open to all athletes who can sign deals to profit from “apparel and non-apparel” items featuring their likenesses alongside the UNC logo.

Individual Designs

It’s not just jerseys — athletes are getting creative with other clothing designs too. Iowa basketball player Jordan Bohannon launched his own shop, selling T-shirts with his notable phrase “Thanks for the memz” for about $33 each. 

Nebraska volleyball player Lexi Sun teamed up with REN Athletics to sell $58 long-sleeve black crew necks with gold suns.

And several players — from UCLA gymnast Margzetta Frazier to Kentucky basketball player Dontaie Allen — are selling apparel and other experiences on The Players Trunk, which previously could only offer former players’ game-worn clothing. These current players can now sell original designs on the website.

“Now’s really the first chance you have to support your favorite [college] athletes,” co-founder Austin Pomerantz told FOS. And already, the popularity of these items have “exceeded our wildest expectations.”

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