Webinar: Athlete Empowerment in the NIL Age [VIDEO]

May 7, 2024

Basepath recently hosted a webinar on Athlete Empowerment in the NIL Age with Brandon Copeland. Brandon is a former student-athlete at Penn who boasts a decade-long career in the NFL. An author as well, he has a book focusing on managing finances and cultivating wealth. Brandon is the CEO of Athletes.Org. 

UAB Joins AO Player Association- 5:40 

The UAB football team recently joined AO’s player association, marking a step in advocating for the interests of athletes and coaches alike. A players association functions as a unified entity aimed at safeguarding the rights and well-being of its members. This includes aspects such as revenue sharing, practice regulations, wages, and overall working conditions. AO, in particular, views college athletes as akin to professional athletes, especially with the advent of NIL opportunities that professionalize their careers at an earlier stage. By providing protection and support, similar to the NFL Players Association in the professional realm, AO ensures that athletes can maximize their potential on and off the field. The new addition of the UAB team, coached by a former Super Bowl winner, underscores the importance of advocating for athletes’ interests within collegiate sports where organizations like the NCAA primarily represent schools rather than individual athletes.

About Athletes.org- 13:00 

The absence of a platform for athletes to voice their concerns could potentially lead to more antitrust lawsuits similar to those experienced in the House v NCAA lawsuit. Having structured representation for athletes is crucial for the industry. Brandon, having engaged with numerous coaches and athletic directors, highlights the significance of organizations like AO in ensuring athletes’ interests are protected. AO’s deliberate choice of words and messaging allows for broader discussions surrounding the protection of athletes’ rights. Moreover, AO’s approach goes beyond offering standardized services across different sports and levels. They provide resources such as pro bono legal services, mental wellness support, and medical opinions tailored to athletes’ specific needs. This flexibility underscores their commitment to advocating for the issues faced by athletes across various sports and levels of competition.

How the AO Chapters work- 16:00 

AO operates with a structured framework organized into chapters, each functioning as its own association. This setup mirrors that of established player associations like the NFLPA. In the context of AO, every team within a chapter appoints a player representative who serves as the voice of their respective locker rooms. These representatives collectively vote on various issues, with all votes consolidated and forwarded to the executive committee. This committee, comprised of current college athletes, then formalizes and advocates for the decisions made by the chapters. Brandon and other experienced individuals provide guidance to athletes on navigating the collegiate and professional landscapes, empowering them to advocate for their interests effectively within the framework provided by AO.

Getting a Seat at the Table- 20:00 

Securing a seat at the table for athletes involves navigating various spheres of influence, including those governed by the NCAA, College Football Playoff (CFP), and potential athlete employee tables. The key challenge lies in ensuring that athletes are positioned to advocate for themselves effectively in these decision-making forums. This process begins with earning the trust and buy-in of athletes, a critical first step in executing any meaningful change. It’s imperative that athletes are actively engaged and involved in the conversation. Additionally, initiatives such as the March Madness conference room gathering, hosted by AO, illustrate the importance of creating alternative platforms where athletes can contribute to discussions on the future of collegiate sports. Brandon noted that by empowering athletes with real support and fostering an ecosystem that prioritizes their needs and interests, they can pave the way for meaningful representation and advocacy at all levels of the sports industry.

The Difference between a Players Association and Union- 35:00

The distinction between a players association and a union lies in the employment status of the athletes involved. A union requires individuals to be classified as employees, affording them greater potential for antitrust exemptions and legal protections to engage in collective bargaining. In the context of collegiate athletics, chapters like those in AO have the opportunity to evolve into unions once athletes are recognized as employees. This transition would enable athletes to collectively negotiate on matters affecting their rights and interests, representing a significant step toward achieving greater autonomy and influence within the sports industry.

How to engage with AO- 37:00

Engaging with AO involves various communication channels and support avenues. Members can connect with AO through text messages, phone calls, and social media platforms to seek assistance and guidance. Additionally, AO facilitates Zoom calls to walk individuals through strategies and provide personalized support. This multifaceted approach ensures that athletes have access to the necessary tools and support to navigate their careers effectively, emphasizing AO’s commitment to empowering athletes and championing their interests.

Upcoming Webinars

All Basepath webinars are on Thursdays at 1 pm ET.

  • May 23- “Enhancing the Collective and University Relationship” with Dinkytown and Minnesota Admins
  • May 30- “The Collective Association Initiatives” with President Russell White