Aaliyah Edwards adidas Canada deal: Why UConn forward can’t speak about big-money NIL contract in U.S.

Aaliyah Edwards is one of college basketball’s best talents, a 6-3 terror whose rebounding skills and penchant for paint points seemingly have her destined to be a top-five pick in this year’s WNBA draft.

Edwards also plays for one of the sport’s biggest programs — UConn. However, despite being one of the team’s best performers, Edwards has received precious few NIL deals, at least compared to fellow Huskies standouts like Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd.

The reason why is simple: Edwards is Canadian; Bueckers and Fudd are not. Although Edwards has plenty of fanfare surrounding her play, she is legally barred from receiving the glitzy paychecks that Bueckers, Fudd, and countless other American sports stars are eligible to claim in the U.S.

MORE: Is Paige Bueckers entering the 2024 WNBA Draft?

International players aren’t allowed to capitalize off of big-money NIL deals in America. Instead, they are only eligible to receive money from passive NIL agreements. For example, Edwards would receive pennies on the dollar if the campus bookstore sold her jersey.

Edwards, a Kingston, Ontario, native, isn’t exactly lacking in NIL offers. She just inked a deal with adidas Canada, the company announced Monday.

However, she’s not actually allowed to publicly promote the brand or her deal in the U.S., as it could potentially jeopardize her student visa.

Instead, Edwards will only be allowed to reap the rewards from her agreement when she returns to the Great White North.

She’s not the only international talent to have been felled by red tape. Edwards’ F-1 visa applies to most international students studying in the U.S., limiting their ability to seek out jobs while going to school. If you’re a computer science major hailing from a different country, for example, you’ll likely only be able to find a work-study job related to computer science. Anything else could very well put you in violation of the U.S.’s immigration policy.

Purdue’s Zach Edey (Canada) and fellow Huskies star Nika Muhl (Croatia) find themselves in similar positions to Edwards. So, too, did former National Player of the Year winner Oscar Tshiebwe (Democratic Republic of Congo), who only was able to rake in NIL money (reportedly $500,000) during a weeklong trip to the Bahamas back in 2022.

There could be a reprieve coming soon for the likes of Edwards, Edey, and Muhl. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) have been pushing for better compensation for collegiate athletes.

Blumenthal and Sen. Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.) have spearheaded a recent bill designed to allow international athletes to agree to NIL deals in the U.S., too.

Still, this story is far from over, especially as NIL becomes more an more ubiquitous with every passing season.

Is Aaliyah Edwards entering the 2024 WNBA Draft?

Edwards’ status going forward is a bit murky. Unlike Bueckers — whose NIL value sits at about $652,000, per On3, Edwards isn’t quite as marketable in the U.S. due to her Canadian ties.

She still projects to be a top pick in this year’s draft, but she won’t be able to reach the whole of her earning potential until after she leaves school.

Edwards hasn’t yet decided on her future. That’s coming after the season.

However, she did express an admiration for the program she has spent four years with.

“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.”

Aaliyah Edwards career stats

  • 13.3 points per game
  • 1.7 assists per game
  • 7.3 rebounds per game
  • 1.2 steals per game
  • 2.4 turnovers per game
  • 59.6 percent field goal shooting
  • 33.3 percent 3-point shooting
  • 73.6 percent free throw shooting

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