Andreea Dragoi via Swimswam YouTube, screenshot

While popular college athletes and models Olivia Dunne, Angel Reese, and many others are making absolute bank through NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) deals with some of the most lucrative companies in the world, one international student and college swimmer is potentially out a significant money making opportunity due to restrictive immigration visa requirements.

Andreea Dragoi at Culture Cabana Swimwear Fashion Show / New York Swim Week 2023 via MomentoTempus YouTube, screenshot

Andreea Dragoi is a swimmer at San Jose State who has managed to gain a pretty large following on Instagram the last few years, becoming one of the most-followed NCAA swimmers on the social media platform. Her following and natural beauty has also landed her some lucrative deals, such as walking the runway at New York Swim Week as well as New York Fashion Week.

However, there is a legal ceiling to how far she can go with these business opportunities. According to Swimswam.com, unlike other college athletes taking advantage of their athletic skills (and winning the genetic lottery), she’s not going to be able to take advantage of NIL deals because she’s not an American citizen.

Riley Overend at Swimwam states:

“Dragoi, unlike Dunne, cannot profit off NIL while on U.S. soil due to F-1 visa guidelines. Making matters worse is the fact that she can’t even sign to a talent agency because of her status as an international student, meaning it’s entirely up to her to organize any deals out of the country.”

 

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Because of this barrier, Dragoi has had to put in more of the work herself to obtain opportunities outside of NIL deals.

“I’m doing it all on my own,” she said. “It made me learn a lot from the process and how to manage everything. Everyone thinks I have a team behind me at this point, and I’m like, ‘Nope.’”

Dragoi, one of approximately 14,000 foreigners in the NCAA, cannot accept publicity rights due to federal laws, causing her to miss out on multiple brand deals each month. To support herself financially, she works 20 hours weekly as a lifeguard at San Jose State, as allowed by her F-1 visa, while also dedicating 20 hours to training for the school’s swimming and diving team.

 

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A post shared by Andreea Dragoi (@dragoi_andreea)

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“In my case, I’m financially independent and I have to get an on-campus job,” Dragoi continued. “Everyone’s like, ‘Oh my god, she’s a lifeguard.’ But the thing is, I have no other choice. It’s the only job that I can do, being on campus, because of my visa. It’s hustle after hustle after hustle that would be made a lot easier if we could monetize our NIL.

“It’s really frustrating. I wish there would be another loophole or another new rule that would allow international student athletes to be able to earn from NIL deals. After all, we’re all athletes right? We all follow our dreams, we chase our goals, and we want to monetize our name as well.”

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy has been pushing for a federal law allowing all college athletes to earn money from their NIL deals. However, his attempts haven’t succeeded yet.

 

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In 2021, Murphy expressed concerns about the billion-dollar industry that profits while many athletes struggle financially. He emphasized that every college athlete, including international ones, should have the right to benefit from their NIL without visa-related worries.

“There is something flat out wrong with an industry that makes billions of dollars a year while many of its athletes can’t afford to put food on the table or buy a plane ticket for their parents to see them perform,” Murphy said in 2021 regarding this.

“At a minimum, all college athletes deserve the ability to use their own name, image, and likeness how they see fit, and that includes international athletes who shouldn’t need to worry about losing their visa status and ability to pursue higher education in this country to benefit as well.”

Do you think this law should be changed? Let us know in the comments below and across social media.

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