Pitt athletes participate in inaugural NIL Summit

PITTSBURGH — The world of name, image and likeness rights, or NIL, in college sports has been very complex since it was approved about a year ago. College athletes continue to understand how they can profit from their name, image and likeness. Last week, three student athletes from Pitt took part in the inaugural NIL Summit, and took away a whole lot.

“It’s literally like building a brand and creating your own business through your name, image and likeness,” said Pitt gymnast Sidney Washington.

The three-day summit at the College Football Hall of Fame provided Pitt’s Washington, Lexis Akeo and Julianna Dalton, along with 350 other athletes across all divisions, a wealth of experience. One of the biggest takeaways?

“Us as student athletes, we have a lot of worth and a lot of value,” said Pitt volleyball player Lexis Akeo. It’s important to understand we’re worth a lot, and not to undercut ourselves with companies.”

“You don’t have to be a superstar to have a big brand deal,” added Washington.

While NIL has been in place since 2021, there’s still a lot of common misconceptions about what it means for student-athletes.

“Some of my parents’ friends have seen my Instagram posts, and they’re like, “why are you doing this?,’” said Pitt volleyball player Julianna Dalton. “‘If you’re on a full ride scholarship, they’re like, you’re literally already getting school paid for it. Now you’re trying to make more money.”'

Through events like the summit, the athletes navigating the waters of NIL are understanding it’s opening numerous doors and possibilities they never thought possible.

“I just really love the I can empower people through like the companies that I work with,” said Akeo. “They stand for what I stand for, and I really show who I’m all about through the companies I partner with.”

Akeo, Washington and Dalton all currently have brand deals ranging from athletic clothing lines to apps, allowing them to connect with fans and give coaching advice. It’s also providing them with skills they’ll be able to take with them long after they graduate.”Creating content for companies is already giving me this opportunity to honestly use on my on my resume,” said Dalton. “I can be like, ‘I’ve already done this, so I can now work for you and do it.’”

While NIL is still very much in its infancy, the trip excited the athletes about exploring the continued opportunities it can bring, and feel the future is very bright.

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