UConn's Aaliyah Edwards inks Canadian NIL deal, but can't discuss

STORRS, Conn. -- UConn forward Aaliyah Edwards signed a big name, image and likeness contract this week with Adidas Canada but wasn't allowed to speak with reporters in Connecticut about it Tuesday for fear that promoting the deal might jeopardize her student visa.

Under current United States law, Edwards, who is from Kingston, Ontario, and other international students can make money in this country only with passive NIL deals. She gets a little something, for example, if someone buys a jersey with her name on it at the campus bookstore.

But unlike her teammate Paige Bueckers, who is estimated to be worth more than half a million dollars in the NIL world, Edwards can't actively participate in endorsements in the United States.

Her financial security no doubt made it a bit easier for Bueckers to decide she will come back to UConn for another season rather than enter this year's WNBA draft.

Edwards and fellow international player Nika Muhl (Croatia) also have eligibility remaining, but neither of them has announced whether she plans to return or turn pro.

Edwards said Tuesday that her decision will be based on basketball and achieving the goals she has for herself and the Huskies. But she acknowledged that money is also a factor.

"Maybe a little bit," she said. "It's a little influence. But it's really about the team."

Adidas did not release terms of Edwards' NIL deal, but a spokesperson told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the company is "being respectful of the NIL rules and Aaliyah will only participate in Canada during her NIL Adidas Canada deal."

Muhl said she has pretty much made a decision on whether to return to UConn and is just waiting for the right time to make an announcement.

The senior guard said that because she never had NIL money and it wasn't part of the reason she chose to play at UConn, it won't be a factor in her decision to leave or stay.

"The legacy here, the things that you learn are so much more than the money you can get," she said. "I feel that is going to translate into life later ... what you learned about perseverance, resilience, hard work, dedication, discipline. And you're going to make money later on in life just by having that experience here."

Their coach, Geno Auriemma, said he would love to see Congress carve out an exception to student visa rules that would allow international students to at least make grocery money, whether or not they are athletes.

But he said he understands the government can't just open up work visas to anyone who wants one.

"If they can find a way to get these people treated the same as every other student-athlete, great," he said.

The issue has gotten the attention of Connecticut's two U.S. senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, who have been pushing for better compensation for college athletes.

Blumenthal, a Democrat, and Nebraska Republican Pete Ricketts introduced legislation last October that would create a subcategory within the F-1 visa narrowly tailored to international student-athletes who want to pursue NIL opportunities.

"Their blood, sweat, and tears are equally deserving of monetary reward as other student-athletes," Blumenthal said at the time. "The current visa system puts them at risk of losing their legal status here if they earn any NIL money. This provision is deeply unfair and demonstrably outdated, and must be reformed, as our legislation would do."