Nike co-founder Phil Knight and other prominent University of Oregon donors and alumni announced Thursday the launch of a new company focused on helping Ducks turn their status as successful college athletes into money.
Division Street, Inc., is aiming to help student-athletes market their name, image and likeness, or NIL, the company said in a news release.
“Division Street has put together an extremely capable group to deal with the fast-changing landscape of NIL,” Knight said in a statement.
Rosemary St. Clair, former vice president and general manager of Nike Women, will be the company’s CEO.
“Division Street’s founding strength is the Oregon brand itself, which has always been about innovation, audacity and culture,” St. Clair said in a statement. “Our goal in this chaotic new world of NIL marketing is to elevate the athlete experience by bringing in leading expertise across brand, marketing, sponsorship, digital and creative to support all University of Oregon student-athletes, inclusive of every sport and across gender.”
The formation of Division Street follows continuing conversations about compensation for students who participate in intercollegiate athletics.
The Oregon Legislature earlier this year passed a bill allowing college athletes to be paid.
The National Labor Relations Board’s General Counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, issued a memorandum Wednesday stating that certain collegiate athletes should be considered employees under the National Labor Relations Act — and be granted similar protections.
Still, that memo may not cause major changes as Oregon’s public universities are not governed by the National Labor Relations Administration.
Even so, Oregon State University spokesperson Steve Clark said that OSU will be reviewing the memo.
“OSU is focused upon supporting the success of all student-athletes in their studies and progress to degree, in athletic competition and in the community,” Clark said. “While we have strongly embraced student-athletes’ rights within Name, Image and Likeness discussions and legislation, we oppose pay of play and oppose efforts to change laws that make student-athletes employees.”
UO did not comment on the NLRB memo Thursday, but two academic areas at the university are working with Knight’s new company.
Division Street will be collaborating with the UO’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center and School of Journalism and Communication and their new Oregon Accelerator, described as a “first-of-its-kind, full-service, student-led marketing and branding collective.”
University officials weren’t immediately available to provide details on the new partnership with Division Street.
Former UO basketball star Sabrina Ionescu will serve as Chief Athlete Officer for the company. In that role, she will work to center athlete voices and host seminars with UO athletes.
“As an athlete navigating the world of brand and partnerships myself, I see a real opportunity to provide today’s college players more professional counsel as they grapple with the new NIL landscape,” Ionescu said in a statement. “I’m excited that Division Street also sees that need and is bringing together an all-star team to address this for Oregon. I’m also very passionate about ensuring diversity in gender and sport, and that will be part of my focus in this new role.”