Supreme Court Takes on College Athlete Pay

(Excerpts from Inside Higher Ed News)

  • The Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments about whether National Collegiate Athletic Association rules that cap the amount of financial aid athletes receive from colleges violate federal antitrust law, the court announced Wednesday.
  • The decision by the Supreme Court to review the case means that the justices are ready to address how much legal leeway the NCAA should have to develop its own set of rules for intercollegiate sports competition, said Stephen Kastenberg, a lawyer who specializes in antitrust law at Ballard Spahr. The Supreme Court previously declined in 2016 to hear a similar case to expand education-related aid for athletes.
  • The compensation of college athletes and NCAA restrictions on athletes’ ability to profit from their personal celebrity has recently come under public scrutiny, and federal lawmakers have debatedthe issue and proposed several bills that would prohibit the NCAA from disqualifying players who are paid by third parties. Kastenberg believes the Supreme Court’s ruling will have “clear implications” not just for education-related aid, but for the future of athlete compensation more broadly and the NCAA’s definition of amateurism.
  • While the NCAA argues that its restrictions on financial aid maintain athletes’ status as amateurs, which the association says is an essential part of the college sports business model, judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said in Maythat the limitations have anticompetitive effects. Restricting financial aid to cost of attendance causes athletes — especially those that compete at the top level in lucrative sports such as Division I football and men’s and women’s basketball — to be undervalued, the appeals court decision The judges concluded that athletes should have the opportunity to receive, for example, scholarships to pursue a graduate degree and other education-related benefits after they finish competing for a college.
  • Jeffrey Kessler, a lawyer for the law firm Winston & Strawn who is representing the athletes, said in an email that they “welcome” the Supreme Court’s review. “Hopefully, this will finally bring an end to the exploitation of the athletes who provide the labor for the multibillion-dollar businesses of Division I basketball and FBS football,” Kessler said, referring to the Football Bowl Subdivision.