NARP Clothing plans to empower former college student-athletes
A great debate surrounding collegiate athletics has been whether a student-athlete should be allowed to profit from their name, image and likeness.
KJ Bryant and Patrick Cromwell believe that college athletes should be able to reap the benefits of their hard work.
Formerly teammates in the Clemson baseball program for the 2017 season, the duo was reunited when Bryant joined his sister on her business trip to Europe last year.
After finishing his college career, Cromwell had been playing abroad, first in Australia and then in Germany. Bryant joined his friend to catch up along the Rhine River, where he pitched Cromwell on an idea.
The plan was to allow former student-athletes to profit via their name, image and likeness through sale of their team-issued gear. That led to the formation of NARP Clothing, an online marketplace that does just that.
Bryant said the catchy name was a nonderogatory acronym commonly used by collegiate athletes for students who were not part of the athletic program. NARP stands for nonathletic regular person.
Clemson fans have a tradition called “Solid Orange Friday,” Bryant said. One Friday while working a summer internship in 2019, Bryant wore a Clemson baseball travel polo to work, and a superior told him that he would pay $60 for the shirt.
“My mind just got racing,” Bryant said. “I went home and had all of my Clemson stuff. It was in a box. It was almost collecting dust, so I just got on the computer and I created an informal business plan back in July .”
Cromwell, 25, a Costa Mesa resident who went to Calvary Chapel High School, gave his stamp of approval on the pitch. Bryant asked him to be his co-founder, and the two of them have been working together since.
They started looking for athletes to bring aboard in their old backyard at Clemson. The co-founders noted that the Clemson paw was a recognizable brand, especially due to the football program’s run of success, and figured if they could not sell Clemson gear, they could not sell anything else. They also wanted to know if fans were only interested in high-profile athlete gear or team-issued gear that was not accessible to everyone.
The items were uploaded to the website, and each athlete was provided their own “locker,” where their items would be listed to sell. As athletes experienced success, word got out about NARP Clothing.
“They will send us photos of the gear they would like to sell, and then KJ and I will upload the items to their locker, list them for sale, and then as soon as an item is sold, we will send them a prepaid shipping label that will go into a custom poly mailer that we will send them,” Cromwell said of the business model.
He added that every athlete is researched to ensure that they are not current student-athletes and they do not have remaining eligibility.
Bryant and Cromwell anticipate NARP Clothing becoming more than just a marketplace to connect former college student-athletes with their fans. They are planning on introducing NARP Academy, which will allow for high school athletes to reach out to some of their participating athletes for advice on topics such as recruiting and workouts over a video chat.
“Sometimes, the best advice comes from someone you don’t know, but they’ve been in your shoes,” said Bryant, 24, who earned a master’s degree in public administration from the College of Charleston.
Cromwell said that NARP Clothing allows the athlete to set their own price for the gear. Athletes can use the money as they wish, and in some cases, they have chosen to support causes.
Megan Whittle, who played women’s lacrosse at the University of Maryland, said in a video on her locker that she is donating all the money she receives from selling items on the site to Black Lives Matter.
Alex Martens, who played softball at the University of Kentucky, said she plans to donate half of the proceeds from her sold gear to Special Olympics Kentucky.
Cromwell said that the website will soon become a platform for former collegiate athletes to share their stories about life after their playing careers.
“In the near future, we have a vlog series that will be coming out called, ‘NARP Life,’ which highlights our [athletes],” Cromwell said. “It gives them the ability to share some of the struggles that they went through during this weird transitioning phase from your athletic career to your post-athletic career.”
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