Pitching NIL deals: Suspended Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer

The proposal that landed this week before several dozen NCAA athletes was fairly typical: Would you be interested in promoting a product and making some money for it?

What made the pitch unusual was the pitcher.

“We are seeking motivated and talented college athletes to exclusively partner with me, Trevor Bauer,” read the proposal, signed by Bauer. A copy of the proposal was obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

Bauer has not pitched for the Dodgers in 14 months, after being first put on investigative leave and then suspended for violating baseball’s policy on sexual assault and domestic violence. Bauer is appealing the suspension, but in the meantime he is offering college athletes — primarily baseball players — the chance to earn money and gain exposure by promoting his Bauer Outage line of merchandise.

In exchange for free merchandise, the athletes would be “required to create quality content on social media” and would get “opportunities for commission and bonuses,” according to the proposal. Bauer’s representatives confirmed the authenticity of the proposal but declined to comment on the record; the proposal asks athletes to respond by Sunday.

In addition to his line of merchandise, Bauer has launched Momentum, which features the behind-the-scenes videos he says are essential to marketing baseball to a new generation of fans raised on social media.

“Athletes are building their own brand,” said Blake Lawrence, chief executive of Opendorse, a company that says it has helped more than 80,000 athletes connect with branding opportunities.

“There is no player in the last decade that has done more to enhance the personal branding conversation in baseball than Trevor Bauer. If he wants to continue to build the brand, he has to do things that keep the brand relevant.”

In 2020, Opendorse partnered with Momentum to help athletes share social media content with the widest possible audience. Lawrence told The Times he is aware of Bauer’s NIL proposal — “name, image and likeness” rules now allow college athletes to make money without taking a salary from their school — but is not currently working on its implementation.

“Every NIL deal should be reviewed by student-athletes and their support system to understand the impact of affiliating with that brand,” Lawrence said.

Bauer’s brand has been tarnished by his two-year suspension, the longest under baseball’s sexual assault and domestic violence policy. Bauer was not charged with a crime and has denied any violation of the policy, but neither Bauer nor Major League Baseball has publicly said what evidence the league has cited to warrant the suspension.

Bauer has sued the woman whose allegations triggered the league investigation; she is suing him as well. Bauer also has sued two media outlets for defamation.

On the Momentum website, Bauer is billed as “baseball’s most polarizing figure.”

Lawrence suggested Bauer would find a fair number of athletes interested in taking him up on his offer. When Barstool Sports, an outlet deeply loved by some sports fans and deeply loathed by others, unveiled an NIL opportunity, Lawrence said more than 100,000 athletes applied.

“For many readers, they may think of Barstool Sports as a tarnished brand with a bad reputation,” Lawrence said. “The perception of a brand for an 18-22-year-old may be different than the readers of many of the sports publications out there.”

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