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Oscar Tshiebwe latest example of international NIL hurdles

Nakos updated headshotby:Pete Nakos08/12/22


For college athletes, NIL is an opportunity to cash in. For all the work performed on the field and court, there’s an opportunity to turn a profit.

Except for international student-athletes. Current student visas explicitly bar athletes from working while studying and playing in the U.S. There are around 20,000 international athletes at high schools and colleges across the nation who are in the same bind. 

Even for Oscar Tshiebwe, the reigning Naismith Player of the Year, the rules can not be bent. The Kentucky star is in the process of securing his extraordinary ability visa, which would allow him to profit off his Name, Image and Likeness stateside. It’s a visa that many international athletes secure in their professional career.

Currently, he is on a traditional visa. Most U.S. visa regulations have not been updated since 1986, a few of them since 1996. While the rest of his teammates are focused on bonding and playing exhibition games in the Bahamas this week, Tshiebwe’s schedule has been filled with filming commercials and signing autographs.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily anybody’s fault, per se,” said Ksenia Maiorova, a sports immigration lawyer in Florida. “It’s not a place where you can point fingers. It’s a relatively common issue between different federal regulations that don’t marry up with each other.”

From the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Kentucky star has been able to license his NIL for merchandise. He also is one of many foreign athletes who have gone international to fulfill NIL deals. John Ruiz‘s company, LifeWallet, waited until punter Lou Hedley went home to Perth, Australia, this summer before signing him.

Deals Oscar Tshiebwe is fulfilling in Bahamas

While he waits out his extraordinary ability visa, he’s doing everything he can in the Bahamas. He’s had some sort of photoshoot or filming scheduled every day of his trip. And, according to The Athletic‘s Kyle Tucker, Tshiebwe has roughly 2,000 Topps trading cards and a stack of other memorabilia in his hotel room that he’ll have to sign by the end of the trip.

Per Tucker, the college basketball star stands to make roughly $500,000 over seven days, bringing his total NIL earnings to about $2.75 million

Not all of his NIL work has been specific to deals he has signed, either. Some of the photos and videos the 6-foot-9, 250-pound center is shooting this week are generic. When he can do the work legally, he’s making sure it gets done for future partnerships.

When he visited his native country last summer, he learned his mother was living in poverty. Using the NIL cash he has been able to earn, he has moved her into a five-bedroom home. This week’s trip will be able to help his family even more.

Tshiebwe’s deals have a charitable component, too. His partnership with Donato’s will see a dollar to his Big O Foundation for every pizza ordered during basketball season. He posed in a blue Santa hat in the Bahamian heat to complete the NIL activation.

He’s not slowing down. He even opened his Cameo back up on the trip to accept requests since he’s not in the U.S.

Oscar Tshiebwe’s On3 NIL Valuation

The reigning Naismith Player of the Year holds an On3 NIL evaluation of $115k, which ranks in the top 20 of all college basketball NIL valuations. With 121K social media followers, Tshiebwe has a per post value of $1,400.

The On3 NIL Valuation is the industry’s leading index that sets the standard market NIL value for high school and college athletes. A proprietary algorithm, the On3 NIL Valuation calculates an athlete’s NIL value using dynamic data points targeting three primary categories:

+ Performance
+ Influence
+ Exposure

While the algorithm includes deal data, it does not act as a tracker of the value of NIL deals athletes have completed to date, nor does it set an athlete’s NIL valuation for their entire career. The On3 NIL Valuation calculates the optimized NIL opportunity for athletes relative to the overall NIL market and projects out to as long as 12 months into the future.