NIL deals are here to stay, whether you like them or not. After all, the NCAA generated over $1.15 billion in revenue in 2021, and up until then, it was illegal for athletes to be compensated.

Think about it: the driving force, the product that made universities billions of dollars, had essentially been free labor. 


Some would argue that these athletes receive free tuition, room, and board. Isn’t that enough? Sadly, less than two percent of NCAA athletes will make it to the next level of playing pros. Therefore, people that criticize NILs should consider being more compassionate for the remaining 98 percent of athletes. Sure, boosters may use NIL deals to lure athletes to their respective schools, but that shouldn’t outweigh the benefits. NILs provide student-athletes a tiny window of opportunity to capitalize off their name, image, and likeness (NIL), just as the NCAA has been doing for over 100 years. 

Thanks to the rule change, student-athletes now have the opportunity to profit in an array of ways, such as:

  • appearing in ad campaigns
  • selling ads on their social accounts
  • selling merchandise
  • starting their own sports camps
  • starting their businesses
  • selling signed memorabilia
  • making paid appearances
  • delivering speeches for money
  • arranging autograph signings

Some may argue that having access to this type of capital at such a young age might be overwhelming.

In contrast: Others believe it could better them and their families until they hit the major leagues or reap some of the benefits of playing in college in the event they do not make it professionally.

The real question isn’t whether athletes should or shouldn’t get NIL deals. Instead, it should be how will their respective universities better service them now that they are making money and set them up for success. We all have heard horror stories of college students getting targeted by credit card companies and thinking it’s free money. In turn, those same kids end up messing their credit up and graduating with a ton of credit card debt (obviously student loans).

Here’s the thing: In the case of NILs, it isn’t entirely different. NIL checks will not be consistent, nor will they be promised. However, you will have students developing spending habits that don’t align with their average income. They may get one big NIL check, and unfortunately believe that’s what all their deals will look like in the future. This mindset can ruin them. 

The next elephant in the room: Taxes. 

We are talking about teenagers who have never paid taxes in their life, and if they did, it came out of their summer job checks automatically. This time with NIL deals, these students may be paid as W9 independent contractors. This means they will have to pay their taxes proactively.

Remember Wesley Snipes? He was convicted of three misdemeanor counts for not filing his federal taxes. I would imagine most teenagers won’t know they have to pay taxes, let alone set enough of their NIL checks aside to be able to pay what they owe.

Financial literacy needs to be mandated for these athletes to ensure they are properly managing their money.

According to CNBC, “Sixty percent of NBA players go broke within five years of departing the league, while 78 percent of former NFL players experience financial distress two years after retirement.” This is because financial literacy isn’t taught to Americans, let alone our athletes.

The reality: If you can’t manage $10,000, you definitely won’t be able to collect $10 million.

As a society, we glorify wealth accumulation but not wealth preservation. Knowing how to manage debt, lower expenses, budget, and invest for the future is essential.

This leads me to my new money-focused documentary on Netflix, “Get Smart With Money.” The film touches on relatable pain points by focusing on the money transformations of four families over the year. I happen to work with an NFL player who makes a ton of money, but quickly realizes that making the money is only half the dream — keeping it is more important. I teach him how to lower his expenses, prioritize his goals, and start aggressively investing for the future as if he never plays another football game.


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Whether you are a professional athlete, student-athlete, or an everyday citizen, learning to manage your money should be a priority. And watching this documentary is the first step to becoming financially free.

Ross Mac is an Ivy-league (Wharton School of Business) educated, Chicago native dedicated to increasing access to financial education and literacy. As a former Wall Street professional for Morgan Stanley and Grosvenor Capital, Ross is now a media personality for BET, Revolt TV, and The Street who uses his brand to empower people through merging education and entertainment.  Through his Maconomics brand, he has brought financial freedom to millions of people around the world with his latest Netflix Documentary called “Get Smart With Money.” He was also just named McDonald’s 2022 Gamechanger.