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College athlete shoe deals in NIL era get stepped on by lucrative school contracts with big brands
A volleyball shoe startup is bringing attention to colleges' multi-million-dollar contracts with athletic apparel companies and terms that prevent athletes from wearing other brands
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Harper Murray puts on her Adidas volleyball shoes when she practices or plays in a match for Nebraska, one of the top teams in the country. It's not necessarily the brand she would choose to wear; it's because the German company is her school's official supplier and athletes, coaches and staff are required to wear its products.
Texas's Reilly Heinrich and Virginia's Ashley Le wear Nikes because their schools are under contract with the shoe giant. Heinrich actually wears basketball shoes bearing the familiar swoosh because she says they fit better than Nike's volleyball shoes.
All three also are brand ambassadors for a new volleyball shoe brand, Avoli, which they promote on social media platforms as part of their name, image and likeness compensation deals with the startup based in Portland, Oregon, also the hometown of Nike.
The three can tout Avoli all they want, but it is highly unlikely they will ever wear the brand when they actually represent their schools in competition. It's a familiar and seemingly immovable hurdle for athletes in many college sports. While they now have the freedom to earn money from NIL endorsements, they remain beholden to terms of apparel contracts paying millions to their schools and nothing to them.