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Sankofa coach, councilman Isaiah Thomas leads Philly NIL Youth Protection Action

11/03/2022, 6:30pm EDT
By Owen McCue

Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
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Isaiah Thomas is the head boys basketball coach at Sankofa Freedom Academy Charter. He is also a member of Philadelphia City Council.

With the looming possibility  — or likelihood — of high school athletes in Pennsylvania being allowed to profit off their Name, Image and Likeness, Thomas wanted to use his unique position to help inform and protect student-athletes in Philadelphia.


Sankofa boys basketball coach and Philadelphia Councilman Isaiah Thomas is leading the first of its kind Philly NIL Youth Protection Act. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)

He felt an obligation to put forth the ‘Philly NIL Youth Protection Act’ on Thursday. The first of its kind act is a proactive approach in helping Philadelphia high school athletes of need navigate Name, Image and Likeness deals, when/if they are allowed by the PIAA.

“I coach high school basketball and am a city councilman, so it was just merging the two hats that I wear,” Thomas said.

The Philly Youth Protection Act requires the creation of and development of educational materials to be distributed to all Philadelphia students who are eligible for NIL deals. The Philly NIL Youth Protection Fund will also provide legal and financial resources to help families without the means to afford those services.

The PIAA will vote on whether to allow athletes to take part in NIL deals in December and the expectation is that it will vote in favor of allowing athletes to receive NIL deals, according to Thomas and District XII Chair Michael Hawkins.

The main mission of Thomas’ proposed legislation is to protect kids from ‘predatory’ parties in a marketplace that no one really knows what will look like.

“Right now it’s against the law, but in December it won’t be against the law, and I can tell a lot you in this gym right now are going to be approached by adults and some of them are predators who are going to try and take advantage of your name, image and likeness,” Thomas said to the student-athletes from Sankofa Freedom and Imhotep who were in attendance at a roundtable conversation at Imhotep on Wednesday.

Prior to introducing the bill to Philadelphia City Council on Thursday, Thomas held Wednesday’s roundtable conversation with Thilo Kunkel, Associate Professor and Director of Sport Industry & Research at Temple; Kass Everett, a financial advisor at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC who played football at Roman Catholic and Oklahoma; and Imhotep senior boys basketball player Justin Edwards, a Kentucky basketball recruit.

“It’s coming in December and there are going to be some players who have access to some real money, and the conversation starts now,” Everett said. “What Isaiah is trying to do is spread the word, so if you guys do get contracts, you’ll have resources and access to professionals.”

Kunkel has seen the NIL market take shape while working at Temple and with his own company SPRTER that connects college athletes to NIL deals.

He described what is coming for high school sports as ‘the Wild West.’ Thomas said the bill roughly estimates being able to support anywhere from about 20 to 75 athletes. Kunkel anticipates that number could look higher as the majority deals he’s seen are for two or three-figure amounts or even for items like shoes or clothing rather than some of the larger sums announced for the highest profile athletes.

“I’m seeing $50 deals, $100 deals, but the company requires you to sign off your name, image and likeness and your picture will be theirs forever,” Kunkel said.

“Those are the types of aspects that we are seeing that we want to protect against,” he added.

Edwards’ profile as a Top 3 national recruit and Kentucky recruit certainly make him a candidate for some of the larger NIL deals, though he said he has not been very involved in the potential process.

“I have people who do that for me, so I don’t have to,” Edwards said. 

Thomas’s hope is to protect those students who don’t have informed people around them or access to advantageous resources.

The resources the bill provides extends to things like educating students about NIL, giving them guidance through contract negotiations and helping them file taxes on NIL deals.

The hope is to have resources from the city ready before students start being approached with deals.

“NIL deals are coming to high school athletes. Philly can lead by providing proactive safeguards to these families,” Thomas said in the bill’s release. 


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