By Ken Reed
When it became okay for college athletes to benefit financially from their names, images and likenesses (NIL), the thought was that only football players and men’s basketball players would really benefit.
Well, that hasn’t been the case. Women in a variety of sports are doing quite well, better than their male counterparts in a lot of cases.
According to a company called Opendorse, which is helping universities and college athletes navigate marketing opportunities in the NIL era, football players are receiving the most endorsement money, followed by women’s basketball players, men’s basketball players, and then two more women’s sports: swimming and diving and volleyball. Paige Bueckers, a women’s hoops player for UConn, is reportedly earning over $1 million.
“If you take football players out of the equation and look at how student-athletes are monetizing sponsors in this new world, women’s sports athletes are crushing the men,” says Blake Lawrence, chief executive of Opendorse.
Stanford women’s basketball player Haley Jones is another female college athlete that’s crushing the NIL game. Her marketing agent is PRP, a talent agency in Las Vegas whose clients include Shaquille O’Neal and Jayson Tatum. She has sponsor deals with Beats by Dre, NBA 2K, Coin Cloud and hair product company Uncle Funky’s Daughter.
For years, the NCAA has undervalued and undermarketed women’s sports. In last year’s NCAA women’s basketball tournament, Oregon’s Sedona Prince highlighted, via social media posts, the second-class treatment the NCAA was giving women relative to their male counterparts. Prince shared videos of the joke of a “weight room” the women had been provided vs. the massive training facilities provided for the men. She also highlighted the significant differences in accommodations, meals and swag bags.
Despite minimal promotional efforts by the NCAA, the 2021 NCAA women’s basketball championship game between Stanford and Arizona outdrew the average NBA playoff game last season. And ratings for this year’s women’s games rose once again.
The current interest by marketers in female college athletes is but another example of how the NCAA has misjudged the appeal and value of its women’s sports teams.
Nevertheless, we’re entering a boon period for women’s college athletics, with or without the NCAA’s help.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman, and has a long involvement with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport (now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition). We discuss the state of college athletics today, given the pressures of NIL, the transfer portal, sports gambling and huge media contracts. McMillen then provides great perspective on the poor state of physical fitness our young people are experiencing today.
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Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon