Dorka Juhasz of UConn, like many of her teammates, was ecstatic when she learned that college athletes would be allowed to earn money through celebrity endorsements and other means.
What’s the issue? Juhasz, who is from Hungary, is one of more than 12% of college athletes from other countries in the United States, including more than 3,000 Division I athletes, the vast majority of whom are on F-1 student visas, according to the NCAA.
According to Leigh Cole of Dinse P.C., an immigration lawyer who works with education clients and employers, these visas prohibit students from working off campus except in rare authorized exceptions, such as participating in an internship or work in their field of study. She stated that on-campus work is limited to 20 hours per week or full-time during the summer and breaks.
“If the school discovers that one of their international student-athletes has been doing side jobs, making money off their name, image, or likeness,” she said, “the school is legally obligated to terminate their visa.” “It has far-reaching consequences.”
Because of this possibility, Juhasz and other international students have been advised not to accept any NIL deals.
“Back in Europe, everyone gets paid to play basketball, and obviously it’s not the same thing over here,” she said earlier this month. “It was a little disappointing because we thought (NIL) would be kind of equal opportunity.” We thought there would be an opportunity for us to showcase ourselves, our brand, and build our brand.”
Juhasz, a senior transfer from Ohio State, is one of three Huskies on F-1 visas, along with Croatian Nika Muhl and Canadian Aaliyah Edwards. Their coach, Geno Auriemma, notes that they are among the majority of his players who are not on NIL contracts.
According to legal experts, the United States’ policy for enforcing student visa rules was formalized 20 years ago in an attempt to ensure that foreign nationals are in the country for the purpose stated on their visas.
Connecticut Democrat U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy believes Congress should make an exception to the work rules for student-athletes. He has also advocated for a federal law that would allow all college athletes to earn money, going beyond the NCAA’s decision on July 1 to allow current compensation based on the use of an athlete’s name, image, or likeness.
According to Opendorse, a company that assists athletes in navigating the NIL landscape, most athletes are not making a lot of money from NIL compensation. Between July 1 and November 30, the median monthly salary for all DI student athletes was only $6.
However, according to Blake Lawrence, the company’s chief executive officer, the average compensation for those who actually land a NIL deal is $1,256, or $250 per month.
Paige Bueckers, a UConn star who has signed lucrative endorsement deals with Gatorade and clothing marketplace StockX, said she is well aware that she is being given opportunities that her international teammates are not.
According to the NCAA, athletes who earn money through NIL can give some of it to their teammates.
There could be some other flaws.
Experts say that if Juhasz gets a NIL deal in Hungary, does the work there, and is paid outside the United States, that would probably not be a problem. Lawrence said students who sign a “passive” NIL agreement — meaning they aren’t making a television commercial or running a camp, but simply agreeing to have their name used on something like a T-shirt — may be fine if they sign the document in their home country. He said he knows several Canadian athletes who travel back home to make social media posts so they don’t violate U.S. visa laws.
Nonetheless, Peter Schoenthal, CEO of Athliance, a firm that assists schools in navigating compliance with NIL rules as well as state and federal laws, said the system is so complicated that most schools advise international students to avoid all NIL opportunities in order to avoid any potential violation.
Meanwhile, international students continue to be on the outside looking in, which frustrates players like Florida punter Jeremy Crawshaw, who is from Australia.