The Policy Discourse of Name, Image, and Likeness in College Athletics

Brennan K. Berg – University of Mississippi
Michael Hutchinson – University of Memphis
Janelle E. Wells – University of South Florida
David W. Walsh – University of Houston
Andre Simmond – University of Mississippi
Cody T. Havard – University of Memphis

The changed perception and subsequent state laws that permitted college athletes to engage in name, image, and likeness (NIL) opportunities represent a historic evolution in the collegiate sport system. Utilizing a critical lens, a policy discourse analysis was conducted to examine how a public policy debate progressed and influenced the accepted norms and practices of college athletics given the significance of NIL. Collected data included policy documents, legislative committee hearings, and semi-structured interviews with seven championing legislators in the states of Florida, Texas, and Tennessee. Primary themes in the analysis were Policy Learning, Government Intervention in Sport, Unclear Understandings, and Fairness and Mistreatment of Athletes that encapsulate the complex NIL policy process. The results allow for several practical considerations to be presented for college athletics stakeholders, and sport in general, along with future research needs. This discourse analysis illustrates why it can be expedient for sport organizations to remain persistently engaged in the policymaking process, given the long-term and sizeable impact government affairs can have on sport.