Provo NIL Club was launched on Wednesday, with the support of several BYU football players.
A new venture will give BYU football players a chance to make money with their name, image and likeness – but not everyone in Provo is happy about it.
The Provo NIL Club, which was announced on Wednesday, was created by a company called YOKE, a fast-growing company specializing in building websites and digital communities. Subscribers have access to digital encounters and other player-created content.
Replacement quarterback Jacob Conover and linebacker Max Tooley have so far been the most vocal supporters of YOKE, which promises to fairly compensate all athletes who participate.
“Many players from our team came together to launch the Provo NIL Club,” Conover said in a video. “It’s an online community that allows all of our fans to financially support the team and interact with these players.”
But the arrival of YOKE in Provo was met with some setback, especially from another third-party collective.
“Imitation is the purest form of flattery, I suppose?” Jake Brandon, the founder of CougConnect, the first NIL collective for BYU donors, tweeted. “A little shocked honestly.”
So far, the new initiative has raised less than $1,000 from donors, according to the Provo NIL Club website. Yet her mere presence quickly exposed a divide within the NIL space for BYU donors.
Brandon wonders if YOKE has the best interests of the players at heart or if the company follows NCAA rules.
“I am skeptical whether there has been a lot of money pledged for [players] and whether YOKE followed the proper procedures [with BYU’s compliance office]“Brandon told the Salt Lake Tribune. “It’s just a bit rushed. But maybe they will be great.
YOKE is currently in a land grab phase, quickly building as many NIL clubs as possible. That’s up to 20 schools starting this week.
YOKE is essentially like Instagram or YouTube for NIL. It sets up the platform for players to profit from and takes a percentage of those profits every time someone uses the platform. The platform fee is currently 18%.
Due to these high fees, players will see a lower percentage of the money they bring in.
It is a fast moving company in the NIL space, trying to occupy as much real estate as possible.
“Well, it’s a tech company with big money,” said NIL attorney Ben Chase. “They are just an out-of-the-box digital solution for NIL Collectives.”
The biggest question Brandon asks is whether YOKE complies with NCAA rules.
Mick Assaf, the co-founder of YOKE, said the platform fee was a temporary measure. Eventually, YOKE would like players to see a larger percentage of the money. Platform fees started at 25% and have now dropped to 18% as the business grows.
Regarding the issue of compliance, Assaf argued that YOKE is not a NIL collective and does not have to follow the same channels. He did not say whether YOKE had contacted BYU.
“We are a creator platform,” Assaf said. “Our technology allows creators [in this case, players] to monetize. Every collective we’ve worked with, we’ve worked with the compliance office in one way or another. Different schools have different compliance implications, but we’ve never had a problem.
BYU said it wants to have more conversations with YOKE to review the player terms of service, making sure they meet NCAA standards. Several experts said YOKE’s terms of service allow it to retain rights to athlete content in “perpetuity” without fair compensation.
“My understanding is that YOKE offered a whole variety of athletes around $20 in exchange for some kind of endorsement,” University of Florida sports law professor Darrent Heitner told The Gazette in Iowa. “The big thing that struck me when I saw this post on YOKE was the extensive rights that the athletes provided. And not only the extent of those rights, but that they were perpetual and irrevocable royalty free. For an athlete, not being able to revoke this right at any time for the rest of their life or career, is a concern, especially if the compensation is around $20.
BYU is investigating the model used by YOKE in the coming days.
“I plan to have conversations with our friends there at YOKE in the next few days,” said Gary Veron, an associate athletic director who works on NIL issues at BYU.
Veron also mentioned that he wasn’t sure yet if he saw any major red flags with YOKE.
“I’m not knowledgeable enough to really definitively answer that question right now,” Veron said.