By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,
Morgan State University football player Elijah Williams recently landed a name, image and likeness (NIL) contract with The Harbor Bank of Maryland, a Black-owned bank based in Baltimore. The senior defensive lineman was most recently chosen for The Bluebloods 2023 FCS Preseason All-American Team and has a number of other accolades under his belt.
The contract will enable Williams to market himself, affording him the opportunity to receive compensation from businesses that want to use his NIL for advertising and promotional campaigns. The Harbor Bank of Maryland’s execution of the deal is a product of its longstanding relationship with MSU.
“We really feel that not only is this an opportunity for us to financially impact Elijah but, ultimately, it’s an opportunity to impact Elijah in his career,” said Stanley Arnold, executive vice president and chief lending officer for The Harbor Bank of Maryland. “We feel like this deal is a way to have a lasting impact on an HBCU student.”
Before July 2021, NIL contracts were prohibited by the NCAA, but a U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled that it was illegal for the association to bar student athletes from profiting off of endorsements, apparel, brands and more.
The Harbor Bank of Maryland called on Anthony Johnson, founder of Renaissance Sports Group, to help facilitate the deal. His entire company comprises historically, Black college and university alumni.
Williams’ deal furthers Johnson’s mission of creating more opportunities for HBCU students to obtain NIL contracts.
“I think there needs to be more intentionality around the NIL space being equitable for HBCU student athletes,” said Johnson. “With us being in this space, we see how deals are allocated and to whom they’re allocated, and we see that there’s clearly a disparity. We want to be intentional about balancing that scale to the best of our ability.”
Williams, a native of New Jersey, began playing football when he was 7 years old. He was drawn to the camaraderie and competition of the sport and dreamed of playing in the NFL.
In his freshman season at MSU, Williams started in every game and finished as the Bears’ third-leading tackler. Since landing the contract, Williams said his teammates have started calling him, “Mr. Harbor Bank.”
“It’s a blessing. It was something that really just came out of nowhere. I didn’t expect it,” he said. “Once I got it, I said, ‘Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity that you’ve given me. I’m going to make the most of it.’”
Williams still plans to go to the NFL. He’s in the process of deciding whether he wants to play one more season with the Bears or take his chances with the league next year.
Beyond the NIL contract, The Harbor Bank of Maryland is also prepared to support Williams in his studies as a marketing major. Arnold said the student athlete will be able to participate in a paid marketing internship with the bank after graduation, which could later turn into a full-time position if Williams does not go to the NFL.
“I think it’s been a great opportunity for us to find an individual whose potential and future we feel confident about,” said Arnold. “Even if he doesn’t make it to the NFL, we’re going to have an individual who’s going to be a substantial contributor to society in some way.”