ATLANTA — At the beginning of the 2021 NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, Rutgers guard Geo Baker was focused on more than just preparing to play.
Baker, along with Michigan’s Isaiah Livers and Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon, launched a historic protest against the NCAA’s refusal to allow athletes the right to profit off their name, image, and likeness. The social media movement, called #NotNCAAProperty, was organized by the National College Players Association — and dozens of athletes participated.
About four months after Baker launched the #NotNCAAProperty protest, the NCAA finally changed NIL rules. Since then, an entire industry has developed that some estimate could top $1 billion.
This week, Baker was sitting on the third floor of the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta at the first ever NIL Summit.
“It’s just crazy to think back,” Baker told Front Office Sports. “Not too long ago, we were just fighting for this to be a reality. And I think it shows how much potential there is in this space.”
Since July 1, Baker has done a range of deals, from a partnership with a local coffee shop called LeGrand Coffee — founded by former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand — to a promotion of a law review article on Twitter.
Even with thousands of followers, Baker didn’t think he had the clout to land national brands — and that was perfectly okay with him. Baker’s approach, he said, was to try to build “long-term relationships” with local companies in the Rutgers community.
After completing his final year at Rutgers, Baker is finished with basketball — but he’s not finished helping the next generation of players cash in.
“I kind of felt a sense of responsibility [to other athletes] after being at the forefront,” Baker said of the months leading up to July 1 — a mentality that has continued. He’s spent a significant amount of time helping other athletes who have reached out to him, giving advice or suggesting easy deals, like Cameo.
He set out to position himself — and other athletes — for future success.
Perhaps his biggest NIL project was the one that continued his advocacy.
With LeGrand and others, he co-founded the Knight Society, a company aimed at helping Rutgers athletes make money through both Web3 and in-person events.
Now, he says running the program is close to a full-time job, one he’s doing along with giving some basketball lessons, of course.
On the final morning of the NIL Summit, Baker spoke on a panel about athlete empowerment. He had told FOS earlier that athletes all over the Summit were making connections with each other. He encouraged them to stay in touch — particularly if they want to keep pushing for other changes.
To the room of bleary-eyed but invigorated athletes from around the country, he said: “We truly have power.”