DALLAS — The new NCAA rule change that has reshaped the landscape of college sports is known as name, image and likeness rights, or NIL, but for RaSun Kazadi, it’s about identity.
“You have the opportunity to be yourself,” Kazadi said. “Before that, I don’t think we had the opportunity to be ourselves.”
Kazadi, who goes by Ra, is a junior defensive back on SMU’s football team, and his other passion is painting.
“It’s all about expression,” he said. “What I’m listening to. What the weather is. How I’m feeling.”
Before the July 1 rule change, he couldn’t attach his name to his paintings or promote them.
“I just had to have two different separate identities, separate accounts, separate everything,” Kazadi said. “Now it’s going to be weird connecting them because they’ve been separated for so long.”
Kazadi basically taught himself to paint.
“I didn’t even paint until my junior year. I never painted,” he said. “I took a graphic design class my senior year of high school and that was it.”
Now, despite a busy schedule as a student-athlete, he carves out time for what’s both a hobby and a job.
“If I get like a really cool idea in my head, I’ll stay up till like 4 a.m. on the weekends,” he said. “When comes to art or other stuff you’re passionate about you’ve got to make that time. You’ve got to find time for stuff you’re passionate about.”
In the past week, he’s now received more requests than he can handle with plans for a physical space to display his art.
“A ton of people are DMing me, like 'Hey how can I get one, what can I do?'" he said.
There are plenty of athletes already using the NIL rule to sign deals promoting sweet tea companies, mobile providers or just themselves.
“Guys are super excited. Even if they haven’t gotten any traction yet, I think it’s just the idea of being able to,” Kazadi said. “People get to start like now. They don’t have to start when they go to the league. They don’t have to start when they get out of college.”
On top of the art, Kazadi is working with other athletes to promote their non-profit Détente which he wants to use to help with conflict resolution in communities and to promote social justice.
“I’m just excited that we can be who we are and help out as many people as we can with that too,” he said.
The change has redrawn the lines of what’s possible and opened opportunities for players to profit, but maybe most importantly, it’s allowed them to have an identity.
“A guy’s never just one thing. No one is just a doctor. No one is just a mom. No one is just a husband,” Kazadi said. “I’m pretty interested to see how it takes off.”