Penn State’s Phia Gladieux and Ohio University’s Emily Risser say NIL contracts are more than just about money

As soon as the NCAA approved an interim Name, Image, and Likeness policy, Penn State University field hockey standout Sophia Gladieux contacted Longstreth Sports.

“I have always loved Longstreth for providing me with everything I needed in regard to field hockey, head to toe,” the junior Nittany Lion said. “They are a great company and truly care about their ‘team.’”

Gladieux is among the 450,000 student-athletes who participate in NIL deals (Name, Image, and Likeness). The NCAA, and PIAA, Pennsylvania’s statewide governing body, both allow for NIL contracts, where athletes can be compensated.

The NCAA passed its policy on June 30, 2021, regardless of whether a state had a NIL law in place or not. The PIAA adopted its bylaws language for high school student-athletes on Dec. 7, 2022.

Gladieux, who goes by Phia, was a 19-year-old sophomore when NIL was approved. She’s been in the program for almost two years. During that time, she said she’s learned to take more “initiative to promote TK and Longstreth.”

She is a TK brand ambassador. TK is a brand of field hockey stick.

“We are currently talking about doing a photoshoot, which I think will be really fun,” the Oley Valley high school graduate said. “The great thing is that they are so flexible and understanding of how many other things I have going on. They aren’t super demanding.”

When she reached out to Longstreth, she said she vibed with the employees there. They began conversations about an NIL deal, and within a matter of days, Longstreth offered her a contract. The contract was then sent to Penn State’s compliance office, where the contract was completed.

“It took a matter of one week before I was an official brand ambassador,” she said.

She admitted that the process for her was simple, which she is glad about. There have been reports of girls and women being treated differently than their male counterparts, which placed emphasis on how a woman presents herself to earn a contract.

“I think, we as a society, so badly want to see women succeed and surpass the negative stigma that does surround women in sports,” she said.

“But the second there is a pretty girl using her athletic platform to bring attention to her sport, or maybe even herself in general, it is frowned upon by no other than the women standing next to us. It is kind of saddening, honestly. Don’t we want to see women get recognized? What is the harm if she shows off her appearance or body. Isn’t that why we teach young girls to love the bodies they are in? By bringing down other women athletes on social media solely based on what they post, how they post it, we are only giving the rest of the world a reason to continue to bash not only women in sports but women in general. We need to do better – girls support girls, always.”

NIL is like most opportunities in life – it is what you make of it. Gladieux wants “meaningful relationships” to manifest, which ultimately help her to figure out her interests and dislikes, she said.

“From the very start, I have loved working with Longstreth/TK, not only because of the people, but because I truly love the company and the brand,” Gladieux said. “I will never lie about being a brand ambassador – because what would be the point of that? I want my audience to truly see the benefits that Longstreth and TK have to offer.

“I think my loyalty plays a huge role, like I mentioned, I don’t lie, and I am always honest with my audience. I want them to truly know I am being authentic and truthful in every aspect. Obviously, there are going to be moments when you’re posting content where you have to use more promotional language, but that is how every business works. And, I think people understand that. I know everyone who watches or follows me know I am going to be truthful to them. At the end of the day, I want nothing more than to help young field hockey girls chase their dreams, just as Longstreth has allowed me to do the same by always providing me with everything I needed.”

Emily Risser, Gryphon field hockey stick Brand Ambassador

“I started using Gryphon at an Ohio clinic during the summer going into my senior year,” the Ohio University freshman said. “That was just the beginning of using that stick. I had no plans of becoming an ambassador.”

Risser had been volunteering at Longstreth events prior to the PIAA’s adoption of NIL bylaws.

“I would work at Limelight,” she said. “At the Nook. Work at Festival. And, Shooting Star events.”

During Risser’s senior year, NIL was allowed in Pennsylvania high schools.

“I didn’t sign my NIL deal until this spring,” she said. “Mine’s a one-year contract, as long as I keep up my end of the deal, post about it, and attend different Longstreth events, and promote it as well.”

Risser similarly reached out to Longstreth once NIL was approved. She wrote a letter to the company explaining she “loved the brands” and the “products.”

“In the end, I said I would love to promote your brand as a brand ambassador to promote it to young girls,” the Palmyra High School graduate said. “I think it’s the perfect stick for aerial balls. It has a big groove and it’s lightweight. Most defenders like heavier sticks, but I like doing quick pulls going from defense to offense.”

Being a brand ambassador for Gryphon is just a small part of bigger picture Risser said she’d love to see for field hockey’s future.

“I think it’s incredible what women’s basketball is doing for female sports,” she said. “I think any woman who is doing things with NIL will help promote women’s sports. It’s cool to see that more people are watching women’s sports now. When I was younger, I always looked up to the USA Field Hockey team…Rachel Dawson, Katie Bam, Jill Witmer, the Rio team. They set the standard that I want to copy.”

PIAA NIL bylaws

Each school district is not required by the PIAA to have a written policy. Member schools are required to follow the Name, Image, and Likeness PIAA by-laws. There is no specific age requirement in the bylaws.

“Students may receive consideration for the use of their own name, image and likeness,” according to the bylaws. “Such permissible activities include commercial endorsements, promotional activities, social media presence, product or service advertisements, and unique digital items or assets. NIL contracts and agreement need to come from analysis of the value an athlete brings for providing a specific service or activity, not as an incentive for enrollment decisions or membership on a team. No school or anyone employed by or affiliated with a member school, including booster clubs, coaches, collectives, administrators and alumni, may solicit, arrange, negotiate or pay for a student’s, other than their own child, use of their NIL and, or, the provision of consideration to a student for the use of their NIL.”

The rules include: students may not make any reference to PIAA or a PIAA member school (the school, team name,  nicknames, terms by which a school or team is commonly referred or identified, logo, and may not wear school uniforms or school-identifying apparel or items); students may not endorse or promote any third-party entities, goods or services during team and school activities; students may not wear the apparel or display the logo, insignia, or identifying mark of an NIL partner during any team or school athletic activities unless it is part of the standard school uniform for that sport; students may not engage in NIL activities involving, displaying, or endorsing the following categories of produces or services: adult entertainment products and services; alcohol products; casinos and gambling, sports betting, the lottery, and betting in connection with video games, on-line games and mobile devices, tobacco and electronic smoking products and devices, opioids and prescription pharmaceuticals, controlled dangerous substances, weapons, firearms, and ammunition.

The PIAA requires that within 72 hours after entering into any type of NIL contracts or agreements, a student, or the student’s parent or guardian must notify the school’s principal or athletic director of entering the agreement.

“NIL had entered into the high school landscape many years ago in California,” PIAA Associate Executive Director Melissa Mertz said. “Currently, 20 states permit NIL for high school students. PIAA felt it was important to establish language to educate and protect students with NIL agreements. If a state renowned high school violinist can benefit from an NIL agreement, why can’t a student who happens to be an athlete benefit as well.”

Photos: Provided by Longstreth

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