NIL and Sportswashing: The Fine Line Between Sponsorship and Manipulation

College sports have always attracted wealthy donor money…

It’s enticing to be known as the big booster that:

  • flies private with the team
  • has their name on the locker room
  • is the reason for upgraded facilities

NIL has increased this 10x (and today’s story proves that further).

Let’s Dive In 👇

College Sports For Personal Gain

NIL allows wealthy individuals to put money into the pockets of college athletes.

And for the most part, it’s been used for good (and done in a private matter).

But it also attracts the “all publicity is good publicity” type of people.

John Ruiz at the University of Miami is the perfect example. He wanted to be the quasi-owner of Miami athletics through NIL.

john ruiz nil miami u

And it worked…

His payments, especially $500,000 to transfer Nigel Pack, helped Miami reach their first-ever men’s basketball Final Four.


But John’s future plans look bleak due to NCAA trouble and business hurdles.

In perfect fashion, the universe has delivered us the next person.

Marc D’Amelio x UConn Athletics

Marc D’Amelio is an American businessman, internet personality, and politician.

His family even has their own Hulu show:

D'Amelio NIL collective

The daughters have a lot of social media followers:

  • Dixie: 82 million followers
  • Charli: 195 million followers

In 2022, Marc founded the D’Amelio Huskies Collective for his alma mater, UConn, with intentions to sign at least one athlete in every men’s and women’s sport.

Last week, he hosted several UConn athletes at their footwear event in California.

d'amelio footwear nil

The formula makes sense…

  1. Create a NIL collective
  2. Sign college athletes at the school with large social media followings
  3. Start a new business (preferably consumer-facing)
  4. Use those NIL-paid athletes to promote your business

Cash from the business > expenses from the NIL deals.

So you make money (and look good for “signing” college athletes in the process).

Is This NIL Sportswashing?

A few weeks back I talked about the true definition of sportswashing in the Saudi Arabia article.

Quick recap:

Sportswashing is using sports to present a sanitized, friendlier version of a political regime or operation.

D'Amelio politics and sports

Marc D’Amelio is a politician & businessman using NIL payments to portray his image better and advance his agendas.

Sounds a little bit like sportswashing…

Good or bad — that’s for you to judge.

NIL x Sportswashing

Last year…

Tennessee-Martin quarterback Dresser Winn signed a NIL deal with, Colin Johnson, who was running for district attorney in Tennessee’s 27th Judicial District.

athlete nil deal with politician

South Carolina basketball player Zia Cooke did COVID-19 vaccine public service announcements paid for by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

As paying athletes heads downstream, we’ll see more of these “on the edge” deals involving politics and controversial topics.

Where’s This Going

NIL is a great way to bring extra publicity for wealthy individuals and/or their business ventures.

I think we’re going to see more of this…but who’s next?

The Bush family? Kim Kardashian’s Collective? 😆

kim kardashian college sports

As always…

Hate the game, not the player.

John Ruiz and Marc D’Amelio are leveraging this unique time in history to bolster their own objectives (and college athletes are getting paid in the process).

Wild times.

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