JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Tennessee’s student-athletes are now free to be paid for the use of their name and image, something that’s never been allowed before.
The rule change adopted by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) will allow high school athletes to earn money from the use of their name, image or likeness as long as their activities are not related to the school. However, athletes can’t appear in uniform or in any way connect a business partnership with any school.
Keith Turner, athletic director at Science Hill High School and TSSAA Legislative Committee member, told News Channel 11 the intent of the ruling is to clear the path for high school athletes to use their talents to make money.
“The reason we passed this was to help student-athletes, we didn’t want to hinder them, just like, you got to a talented singer at your school that, you know, makes a record or something, how are you going to hold them back? So why should you hold an athlete back from doing that same thing,” said Turner.
The TSSAA rule change passed Thursday will allow student-athletes to earn income through brand partnerships, commercials and teaching lessons, like Kingsport native and former Tennessee Vols basketball player John Fulkerson.
Fulkerson landed a deal with regional fast food chain Pal’s last year.
Josh Kite, athletic director at David Crockett High School said this ruling can be a new avenue for athletes.
“Our kids have [to[ choose sometimes between work and sports. So this is kind of a new avenue to where they can give lessons, work camps, and, you know, I feel is very beneficial…you could see some kids maybe doing some local commercials to make some extra money,” said Kite.
Turner and Kite said there is concern the ruling could open the door for sponsors to incentivize students to switch schools. Turner responded by saying in that instance, the TSSAA would investigate.
The rule change takes effect immediately, meaning high school athletes are free to sign sponsorship deals as long as they follow TSSAA rules.