Foreign Athletes at US Colleges Find Ways to Make Money

Rule changes that came into effect last year mean that athletes Competing for US colleges and universities can earn money through deals with companies and products. Before the rule changed, an athlete could not keep a stock Exchange or compete collegially if they took money.

But international athletes are unsure of their ability to collect. Many foreign athletes competing in the NCAA, or National Collegiate Athletic Association, cannot earn money unless they travel to their home country to do so.

This includes athletes like Lou Hedley. He comes from Australia. Hedley is a kicker for the University of Miami football team in Florida.

Many players on the Hedley team make money doing things like promote products on their Instagram accounts. This money is coming to them thanks to a 2021 decision by the United States Supreme Court. It allowed students to use their name, likeness and resemblance – also called NIL – to earn money.

FILE – Lou Hedley, seen here August 13, 2019 in Coral Gables, Florida, worked for a Miami-based company when he was at home in Australia so he could earn some money this summer. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Hedley is attending college in the United States on a special student visa called an F-1. Individuals on student visas are not permitted to earn while studying in the United States

Observers, however, say there is still a way for Hedley to make the money. They say foreign athletes can travel to their home country and do things like take photos and record videos that can be used to sell a product.

So Hedley took the long flight back to Australia. He didn’t say exactly how much money he expects to earn, but noted that the amount is similar to what his teammates earn. Teammates reported earning around $50,000.

“It’s strenuous,” he said, of the long journey home, “but it’s worth it.”

Hedley recorded video and took photos for a company called LifeWallet, a health information company run by a Miami sports fan.

Hedley said, “I deserve to earn some money,” due to his efforts on the soccer team for the past two years.

He said he didn’t break any of the rules. He is paid in Australian money and did not sign any documents before returning home.

Foreign athletes in other college sports are following Hedley’s lead. Among them, Mustapha Amzil, originally from Finland. He plays basketball at the University of Dayton in Ohio. He recently said he would be looking for work Opportunities when he is in Finland this year to play with his national team.

Some overseas college athletes, however, aren’t so sure about cashing in on their fame. They fear that taking money to talk about products will result in their visa being cancelled. Indeed, the rules regarding NIL offers are not clear for international students.

FILE - University of Dayton's Mustapha Amzil (R), seen here in a January 26, 2021 file photo, is looking for NIL opportunities when he returns home to Finland this summer.  (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

FILE – University of Dayton’s Mustapha Amzil (R), seen here in a January 26, 2021 file photo, is looking for NIL opportunities when he returns home to Finland this summer. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

Schools such as Drexel University in Pennsylvania and West Virginia University have asked their international students to stay away from NIL offers for now.

“There are a ton of ambiguity“said Casey Floyd. He is a co-founder of NOCAP Sports, a company that helps students find NIL deals. He said the rules should be clearer.

But other schools, like the University of Nebraska, aren’t waiting. Australians Jaz Shelley and Isabell Bourne both play on the Nebraska women’s basketball team. As soon as Shelley and Bourne arrived in Australia recently, the university tweeted: “International NIL made possible!

Administrators at the University of Florida told their athletes to make sure they could prove they were in their home country if they signed documents that brought in money. They were told, for example, to make sure their passports stamp.

Sarah Loicano is a spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She said the U.S. Student and Visitor Exchange Program, which allows international students to come on visas, “continues to assess», the NIL problem.

One athlete who would like to see the questions answered quickly is Oscar Tshiebwe of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is a basketball player at the University of Kentucky. Tshiebwe won the sport’s best player award last season.

Instead of choosing to leave school this summer to become a professional basketball player, he said he would return to school this fall. If allowed to make money through a NIL deal, he could fetch over $1 million.

Tshiebwe recently met Mitch McConnell, one of the most powerful US senators. McConnell, a Republican, represents Kentucky.

Tshiebwe discussed the problem international students face with visa rules. The F-1 visa traditionally prevents foreign students from doing anything other than school work. If that changes, however, it could make coming to the United States more attractive for many young international athletes.

I am Dan Friedell. And I’m Faith Pirlo.

Dan Friedell adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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words in this story

athlete– nm a person trained or gifted for sport

stock Exchange– nm money given for the purpose of going to school

collect – phrasing. to get money in exchange for something you have or a skill you have

promote– v. talk positively about something new that needs support

resemblance– nm the face or photo of a person or a creation that clearly represents them

deserve– v. used to say that someone should receive something, either positive or negative

opportunitynot. a chance to do something

ambiguitynot. something that is unclear

stampv. the act of striking a piece of paper with ink or pressure in order to produce a mark

assessv. examine a situation or make a judgment

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