After the NCAA announced that college athletes around the country would be able to sign deals to profit off of their own name, image and likeness starting on July 1, it was only a matter of time before the floodgates opened.
In fact, the first deal came just after midnight on Thursday, signaling that sweeping change is already in motion.
Antwan Owens, a Jackson State defensive end became the nation’s first athlete to sign an NIL deal under the NCAA’s new policy, according to Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated. Owens inked an endorsement deal with Three Kings Grooming, a black-owned hair product shop, during a midnight ceremony in New York City.
The Jackson State lineman was understandably excited after the historic moment.
“Somebody pinch me!” Owens told Dellenger. “This is something that’s going to be life changing, generationally life changing.”
An @SINow Exclusive | Antwan Owens, a Jackson State D-end, just became the nation’s first athlete to sign an NIL deal.
In a midnight ceremony in NYC, he inked with Three Kings Grooming, a black-owned hair product shop.
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) July 1, 2021
Three Kings Grooming plans to sign three more Jackson State players to deals in the near future. The company cited the desire to uplift historically black colleges and universities, as well as Deion Sanders, as major reasons for focusing on the FCS school.
“For us, HBCUs are very important,” Eric Nwankwo, one of three brothers who run 3 Kings Grooming, told SI. “The main colleges get the credit and no one really pays attention to the HBCUs. What Deion is trying to do to get these athletes paid and recognized, that’s why this was our first choice.”
Owens might be the first college athlete, but he’ll be far from the last. Dellenger already reported that Fresno State women’s basketball players Hanna & Haley Cavinder have inked a massive NIL deal with Boost Mobile. The twin sisters will be featured in a live spot from Times Square on Thursday, among other appearances.
This is a long overdue moment in college athletics and the floodgates have only just started to open. There’s no doubt that more student-athletes will sign their first NIL deals before the week is out.