From Lincoln Riley’s public embrace of Black Lives Matter two Junes ago, locking arms and marching with his team last August and his attempted reinvention of signing day and the spring game since becoming head coach, the Sooner football skipper has offered a progressive and pro-athlete stance on multiple fronts.
On the name, image and likeness pursuits of its athletes, allowed by the NCAA as of this week, Oklahoma’s athletic department struck an anticipatory progressive stance all the way back in December, announcing formation of The Foundry, “a ground-breaking program that promises to take those student athletes to new heights” committed to “casting individuals into a strong brand forged to stand the test of time.”
Thursday, OU’s athletic department added to that vision, releasing a statement, asserting that as it “continues its aggressive march toward” NIL opportunities for its athletes, it would do so with the help of INFLCR, “a national leader in NIL programming and monitoring.”
“INFLCR will serve OU’s Foundry Program … with monitoring and media support systems while complimenting the education program,” the statement read.
While what that exactly means and who exactly it will benefit is not entirely clear, one thing appears to be.
On the NIL front, quarterback Spencer Rattler is prepared to go it alone.
Indeed, as the returning quarterback of a team many project as a national championship contender, who’s already on the short list of preseason Heisman Trophy favorites, Rattler appears positioned to see just how far any college athlete might monetize their personal brand in college sports’ new paradigm.
Rattler wasted no time getting out front in that new paradigm.
Wednesday, the day the NCAA got out of the way of athletes’ NIL opportunities — in its own words, choosing to “suspend amateurism rules” — Rattler released a tweet with that included two images of himself, his name, his signature, a rattlesnake inspired personal emblem and a 90-word message.
“I am excited for the opportunities ahead with my name, image and likeness. This is a great new era for college athletes. At the same time, we must continue to prioritize academics and athletics,” he wrote. “I am focused on my grades and growing on the field in hopes of bringing a national championship to Norman.”
“We, as players, must use our platform and this new opportunity to do good in the world. I will donate a part of any earnings I receive to help underserved people and underserved communities. The time is now.”
The final line actually read like this: “THE TIME IS N:OW”
Thursday, Rattler tweeted a more direct message.
“For all business inquiries,” he wrote, “contact: firstname.lastname@example.org,” referring to Chris Cabot, CEO of Steinberg Sports and Entertainment, a group whose founder and chairman is Leigh Steinberg.
Steinberg, in addition to being a player agent for more than 40 years, is famously credited as being the inspiration for the Jerry Maguire character, played by Tom Cruise, in the 1996 movie “Jerry Maguire.”
According to Forbes, as of December of last year, Cabot directly represented 18 clients, who he’d helped negotiate contracts worth a combined $534.2 million, creating $16.2 million in commissions for himself, working for the likes of Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Rattler has already taken to Cameo, a social app that allows customers to pay for a personalized message from a celebrity or athlete. Rattler is charging $125 per Cameo.
In the past, had any college athlete hired an agent like Cabott, if found out, that athlete would immediately be declared ineligible by the NCAA, having forfeited their amateur status.
Now, athletes like Rattler are free to pursue business opportunities, taking advantage of their NIL, and free to hire others to help them do it.
Rattler won’t be the only one to take advantage. Many of his teammates are bound to, too, as are many other Sooners in many other sports.
Still, none have the name recognition Rattler enjoys already and none are likely to receive the exposure Rattler’s bound to receive as quarterback of one of the nation’s presumed best teams.
“As with every aspect of our university and department, we will provide opportunities to our student athletes,” Sooner athletic director Joe Castiglione said, via the athletics department released statement on Thursday. “This partnership with [INFLCR] provides yet another advantage for those who pursue their education and sports careers in our department.”
It may well.
The Sooner quarterback?
He’s got his own team.