Ky’Wuan Dukes, a freshman wide receiver for Johnson C. Smith University, has become the first HBCU athlete to sign an endorsement deal, inking a deal with Bojangles.
The redshirt freshman and a bevy of other college athletes are benefitting from the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) ruling to allow student-athletes to profit off their names, images, and likeness (NIL).
The ruling, which went into effect July 1, allows student-athletes to hire agents and sign endorsement deals with a host of companies to profit off their abilities while playing sports in college. Before this rule change, the NCAA constantly made the argument that a free education was enough. Dukes told Afrotech the rule gives student-athletes a chance to start their futures, which may not include pro sports.
“It’s already hard for us as it is,” Dukes said about being an HBCU student-athlete. “I’m glad we get that rule because… we are able to promote ourselves for marketing and be introduced to things we’ve never really seen.”
Dukes added that the ruling is a significant turning point for student-athletes who had to deal with strict NCAA rules and enforcement on everything from clothing to food stipends. The ruling now gives student-athletes the ability to use their NIL to make money and even pay for their education if they do not have a full scholarship.
Dukes signed his endorsement deal with Bojangles, a Charlotte-based fried chicken fast-food franchise. Both Dukes and the fast-food chain are excited about the deal.
“We’re thrilled to have Ky’Wuan join Team Bojangles as the first HBCU athlete on our roster,” said chief brand and marketing officer at Bojangles, Jackie Woodward, in an official statement. “We look forward to continuing our partnerships with HBCUs and athletes throughout our footprint.”
Other HBCU endorsement deals that have been signed include Alabama A&M receiver Zabrian Moore and running back Gary Charles, who signed deals with Boost Mobile. Jackson State University defensive end Antwan Owen signed a deal with Three Kings Grooming, a Black-owned, NYC-based Black hair product shop. Norfolk State University’s Rayquan Smith and Tennessee State University’s Hercy Miller also signed deals.
In addition to Dukes, Bojangles has also signed endorsement deals with DJ Uiagalelei and Sam Howell, who both attend predominately white universities.