LONDON (AP) — Miami punter Lou Hedley had to fly 13,000 miles to western Australia to cash in on his name.
The tattooed Aussie and thousands of other international athletes at American colleges have been told they can’t profit from their name, image and likeness on U.S. soil — though interpretations vary about what constitutes work — so some are trekking home to do it.
In Hedley’s case, it was a 37-hour journey that included a long stopover in Qatar.
“It’s a pain in the backside having to fly over but it’s all worth it,” Hedley told The Associated Press after a day of filming promotional spots for LifeWallet in the city of Perth, where he was also visiting family before his final season with the Hurricanes this fall. “I feel like I deserve to get a little bit of money, I’ve contributed wealth to the team (with) my name, image and likeness … so it was good to kind of get compensated for what I’ve been doing the last three years.”
Hedley declined to specify an exact figure but confirmed his NIL deal is in line with his teammates at roughly $50,000. Miami attorney John Ruiz has been actively enlisting Hurricanes on NIL deals through his LifeWallet healthcare company.
The 28-year-old Hedley, one of many Aussie punters in college football, said he didn’t sign anything until he touched down Down Under.
“The work is all done here, paid for over here. As long as I’m doing all my work in Australia, I’m getting paid in Australia, paying taxes in Australia and all that stuff, it’s all legal,” he said.
Nebraska basketball player Jaz Shelley also made a trip home to Australia for NIL deals, and teammate Isabelle Bourne planned to follow suit. Mustapha Amzil, a 6-foot-9 forward at Dayton, announced on social media that when he plays for the national team of his native Finland this summer he will be “open to any business and sponsorship deals.”
On the whole, though, international athletes are finding the NIL waters tricky to navigate, with mixed messages about what’s OK, even now almost a year after the NCAA lifted restrictions.
Some schools have told them to avoid NIL deals altogether because they could jeopardize their visa status. Others say off U.S. soil is fine. Ultimately, the federal government is the arbiter of visa questions and deportations.
“There’s a ton of ambiguity,” said Casey Floyd, co-founder of NOCAP Sports, which is working with athletes to secure deals and advocating for regulatory clarity. “You go to some schools and they are very flexible … and then you have a lot of schools that they just don’t want to touch it …….