[Temple Law Professor Ken Jacobsen addresses Philadelphia City Council in support of the NIL Youth Protection Bill on Dec. 14, 2023.]

Philadelphia City Council has passed the ‘NIL Youth Protection Bill’ that will offer guidance for youth athletes as they explore their earning potential in high school and college sports. Drafted as part of a public-private partnership between Councilmember Isaiah Thomas and Temple Law Professor Ken Jacobsen, the bill intends to provide pathways to scholarships or other economic avenues while providing safeguards to student athletes in avoiding predatory behavior. 

“In Pennsylvania, high school students are able to monetize their Name, Image and Likeness, the problem is that … this environment is in muddy water. It’s very complicated. The rules are inconsistent. There are traps for the unwary, and the consequences of not following those rules are that our high school athletes could lose their eligibility to play sports,” said Professor Jacobsen in the public comment section of the City Council meeting Thursday. 

From left: Khaaliq Van-Otoo, Clarence Milton James, Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, Professor Ken Jacobsen, James Dykman, Britt Walden.

Professor Jacobsen, the Director of the Sports Law Program at Temple University Beasley School of Law, has worked closely with Councilmember Thomas, who closed his first term on council Thursday, and coordinated with student athletes and members of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) in drafting this bill.  

“For young people, as we transition into this new phase of high school and collegiate athletics, I’m really proud to partner with Temple for this specific initiative,” Councilmember Thomas said.  

Profiting from their Name, Image and Likeness through social media or endorsement deals is one way student athletes can support themselves, and this bill will offer resources for those individuals to navigate uncharted territory. Professor Jacobsen said that not only are the rules unclear and complicated but warned of “sharks swimming in those muddy waters” who may prey on unwitting youth athletes.  

“This bill addresses various components to protect and educate our high school students and their families in the Name, Image and Likeness space, so that they could have confidence going forward that if they are entering into these deals, they’re doing it with their eyes wide open and not jeopardizing their eligibility,” Professor Jacobsen said.  

Speaking in support of the bill was James Dykman 3L, who said this bill gives Temple Law students another opportunity to help a specific set of Philadelphia residents: young Philadelphia athletes and their families.  

“When this bill passes, Temple Law, in partnership with the City of Philadelphia, will develop an educational program that helps young athletes understand the ramifications of Name, Image and Likeness and National Letters of Intent,” Dykman said. “Temple Law students will be on the ground floor of this program developing educational materials, talking with students and their families about NIL and NLI deals, as well as guaranteeing students understand the important decisions they’re making for their future.” 

Clarence Milton James, a sophomore at Temple University and multi-sport athlete from Central High School, said he dreamt of playing collegiate sports, but that the process securing a scholarship was difficult and unclear. 

“The educational benefits offered by this bill would have gone a long way towards helping me understand the college recruiting process and pursuing an opportunity to play sports in college and possibly obtaining an athletic scholarship,” Milton said.  

Despite attending various collegiate football camps and sending reels to prospective coaches online, Milton said he did not have the support he hopes this bill will provide to future college athletes.  

“I am forever thankful to the great coaches I’ve had and the effort they put in to prepare me for the next level, but there was no support from the Philadelphia School District in helping myself or any of my teammates to further our athletic careers,” Milton said.  

PIAA District XII Chair Michael Hawkins said in a statement he expects the PIAA to allow high school student athletes to receive NIL deals.  

“PIAA is excited to see youth athletes rise to fame in Philadelphia, but we need to make sure this rise is done responsibly,” Hawkins said. “We are grateful to PIAA XII board member and basketball coach, Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, for putting young people first. By requiring financial literacy and consumer protection in youth NIL deals, Philadelphia sports will continue to lead for generations to come.” 

The Philly NIL Youth Protection Act will provide educational materials on NIL deals to students and their families including information on the likelihood of acquiring a NIL, the benefits as well as risks of a deal, and guidance on the various types of NIL deals. The bill would also establish the creation of the Philly NIL Youth Protection Fund which would equip families of students with prospective NIL deals with a city-vetted lawyer and/or accountant, to assist in navigating and negotiating these deals. 

“Temple Law students want to help,” Dykman said. “We want to serve. We want to give. In passing [the NIL Youth Protection Bill], you give Temple Law students another opportunity to help the city that they love.”