Nebraska college athletes and athletes around the country dove head-first into a new era Thursday when they could profit for the first time off of their own name, image and likeness.
Not everybody was able to get in on the action, however.
For example, Husker offensive lineman Nouredin Nouili could only watch.
The former Colorado State and Norris High player, you see, was born in Frankfurt, Germany, and originally came to the United States to spend his senior year of high school at Norris as an exchange student.
That means he's in the country on an F-1 visa. Among the stipulations: He's not allowed to be employed off campus except for in extremely limited situations.
That, Nouili says, makes it a potential violation of his visa to make any money through NIL-related activities.
"When I found out, obviously I was frustrated," Nouili told the Journal Star on Friday afternoon. "Being an international athlete, especially here in Nebraska, we would be able to make a good amount of money. Especially with the fan base here and the culture of Nebraska athletics, there are possibilities to locally make a lot of money here.
"Being a walk-on, having no money is already a struggle. I feel like we should we be able to make money off our names. That's what this deal was about. Now that we've started to make it possible for athletes to make money, I feel like they shouldn't take it away from international players."
He thinks the exclusion is unfair because, unlike getting a job at a restaurant or a golf course or somewhere else, where he'd be potentially taking a placement away from an American, NIL is only about his own personal brand and doesn't impede anybody else's opportunity.
"A couple of people have commented on the tweet that I posted and said, 'Why should you be considered but non-athlete (international students) are not?'" he said. "Non-athletes might not have the same brand we do, but they could start this discussion as well."
The redshirt freshman walk-on said he only found out about the visa issue recently when a contact of his at Premier Players International, a German group that helps place college football players in the U.S., alerted him to the complication. Before that, he took part in the Opendorse educational sessions and used other resources at NU to prepare himself to try to be in position to benefit from the rule change, which went into effect on Thursday.
He had been in contact with some companies about potentially working together, but put a halt to that as soon as he found out about the visa issue.
International college football players are rare, but an October 2019 report from the NCAA estimated that 12.1% of Division I athletes are international students, meaning more than 3,300 people total are affected.
An ESPN report on the matter raised the possibility of applying for a different type of work visa, but Nouili thinks that would compromise his eligibility, which would defeat the purpose of him being in the U.S. for college in the first place.
"The thing with that is I don't think I'd be able to be a student. How would that work?" Nouili said. "It doesn't make any sense. There's no loophole. Well, there might be a loophole, but it's too risky to potentially lose your visa."
Nouili is hardly the only international athlete at Nebraska. A non-exhaustive list also includes punter Daniel Cerni, women's basketball players Isabelle Bourne, Ruby Porter and Jaz Shelley and men's basketball player Lat Mayen (Australia), other players on Fred Hoiberg's roster from Japan (Keisei Tominaga), Lithuania (Oleg Kojenets) and England (Eduardo Andre).
It's a conundrum that doesn't appear to have a clean solution unless the United States Congress takes up wider NIL issues at some point in the future.
Nouili is hoping that the conversation around this particular part will increase nationally.
"I'm a walk-on offensive lineman at Nebraska," Nouili said. "I personally, probably, am not going to do much about it. But maybe somebody with a bigger name could maybe help. … Hopefully it gets attention nationally."
In the meantime, here's one interesting wrinkle: Nouili's under the impression that he can have endorsement deals that originate in any country except the U.S.
"My mom works for Tupperware, so I could have a deal with Tupperware in Germany, just not in the United States," he said.
IN THEIR WORDS: Midwest athletes, officials talk name, image, likeness
Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez
Illinois senior guard Trent Frazier
University of Wisconsin Athletic Director Chris McIntosh
University of Nebraska football coach Scott Frost
Former University of Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos
University of Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta
University of Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman
University of Illinois men's basketball coach Brad Underwood
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