Historic NIL Deal Puts Joey Spallina in Position to Capitalize on His Talent


For the better part of his high school career, Joey Spallina has been front and center.

His social media following has boomed while highlights of his play on the field have made the rounds. He’s garnered increased media attention after committing to Syracuse, where he will wear No. 22 for the man who wore it best — Gary Gait. Fans are chomping at the bit to finally see the Mount Sinai, N.Y., product at the collegiate level.

But first, he has one more season left at Mount Sinai High School. And by taking advantage of a statewide ruling in New York, Spallina is getting a jumpstart on his future while working to bring a state championship home to the Mustangs.

On Jan. 13, Gait Lacrosse announced a four-year partnership with the rising lacrosse star. New York is one of a handful of states — Alaska, California, Nebraska and New Jersey are the others — that allow high school athletes to sign name, image and likeness (NIL) deals. Spallina was the first lacrosse athlete to take advantage.

As part of the deal, Spallina will have signature glove and stick head lines.

“The way they presented it and the fact that I was gonna be pretty much their starter in their men’s lacrosse brand, it was pretty cool,” Spallina said. “It was tough because you want to pick the right brand, and I believe that Gait is going to go places. They have the right people for it to go big.”

“It’s a company that’s super innovative, just like his game,” said his father, Joe Spallina, the head coach of the Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team.

There were other brands involved in the bidding for Spallina. There has been a fair bit of criticism of the Gait deal, in large part because he’ll be playing for one of the Gaits at Syracuse. But during the negotiations — which his father handled to let his son “be a kid” — the Spallinas only dealt with Gait Lacrosse founder Paul Gait and vice president of product and marketing Jenny Levy.

“Some of the people who have mixed emotions on it are not knowing details,” Joe Spallina said. “It’s legal in New York State. It’s not legal in a lot of other states where lacrosse is more mainstream. I know, for a fact, that if this was legal in Maryland, Joey would probably not be the only high school player in this situation.”

Gait Lacrosse is an emerging equipment company on the men’s side. It’s well established in women’s lacrosse. The U.S. women’s national team uses Gait equipment, as do some of the game’s top players. Recently, Gait Lacrosse announced a teamwide partnership with the Syracuse women.

Joey Spallina said the vision they presented him for their men’s line inspired him to sign on once his father ironed out the crucial details. Droves of professional and collegiate players have since congratulated him on what’s become a watershed deal in the lacrosse world.

“We had good conversations with a bunch of different companies,” Joe Spallina said, acknowledging the theory that it was a foregone conclusion that his son would sign with Gait Lacrosse. “There are a lot of college athletes with endorsement deals. Joey basically just got a six-month head start on something he would have encountered when he got to [Syracuse], but he did it with the leadership and guidance of myself and my wife.

“It wasn’t a shoo-in the whole time. Gait ramped it up. It took a little time to hammer out the specifics. There were no games or anything, but it was a back and forth.”

Joe Spallina said Gait Lacrosse didn’t want a short-term deal with his son, even though, technically speaking, he’s an unproven commodity at the next level. Instead, they pushed for four years, which will take him through his junior year with the Orange. If all goes well, the crafty attackman will be set up for a new NIL deal as a senior.

Few high school athletes have the opportunity that Joey Spallina has been offered, but he said it hasn’t changed his approach. Having a college coach for a father and twin brothers who will also play at Syracuse helps with keeping the competition alive.

“I’m still up every day at 5 a.m. and I’m at the gym,” he said. “Things really haven’t changed. I’ve just kept on going. But it’s just crazy to sit and think I’m getting deals like pro guys are getting, and that’s pretty cool.”

While focusing on the present, he’s minding the future, too. With an opportunity to pick up an elective class this semester, he opted for public speaking over art. He figures he’ll be the subject of a few more interviews in the next decade or two, especially if his career goes as planned.

“Why wouldn’t I take that class?” he asked rhetorically, ready to be front and center for the foreseeable future.

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