WWE Launches NIL Program to Recruit College Athletes

WWE announced a new NIL program for the recruitment of college athletes on Thursday, corresponding with the NCAA's own NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) program that launched over the Summer, finally giving college athletes the ability to make some money on themselves, something previously restricted only to the colleges and the NCAA itself. The long-sought NIL rules allow athletes to make deals with companies, and WWE sees it as the perfect opportunity to bolster its developmental program.

WWE Launches NIL Program to Recruit College Athletes
The logo for WWE NIL (Next in Line, Name/Image/Likeness)

WWE's NIL program will be called "Next in Line" and WWE has retroactively named Gable Stevenson, who they signed in September, as the first athlete in the program. Athletes will be able to utilize WWE resources including the Performance Center and may be offered WWE contracts when they graduate. WWE says that it will unveil the first class of athletes in the program in the coming weeks.

The press release from WWE follows:

STAMFORD, Conn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– WWE (NYSE: WWE) today announced the launch of a groundbreaking NIL (Name, Image & Likeness) program that will provide a clear pathway from collegiate athletics to WWE.

Following a historic new policy by the NCAA effective July 1, 2021, which ushered in the NIL era allowing college athletes the ability to monetize their name, image and likeness, WWE has constructed a comprehensive program to recruit and develop potential future Superstars. Dubbed "Next In Line™," the NIL program aims to enhance the talent development process through collaborative partnerships with college athletes from diverse athletic backgrounds.

"The WWE NIL program has the potential to be transformational to our business," said Paul Levesque, WWE Executive Vice President, Global Talent Strategy and Development. "By creating partnerships with elite athletes at all levels across a wide variety of college sports, we will dramatically expand our pool of talent and create a system that readies NCAA competitors for WWE once their collegiate careers come to a close."

All athlete partnerships will feature access to the state-of-the-art WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla., in addition to resources across the organization including brand building, media training, communications, live event promotion, creative writing and community relations. Upon completion of the NIL program, select athletes may earn an exclusive opportunity to be offered a WWE contract.

In September, WWE announced its first NIL deal with heavyweight freestyle wrestler Gable Steveson who captured a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. The agreement allowed Steveson to return to the University of Minnesota for his senior season where he is defending his NCAA National Championship while beginning his Superstar training with WWE.

WWE will unveil the first class of NIL partnerships in the coming weeks.

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