D.C. – The United States Supreme Court voted unanimously on Monday to provide additional avenues for college athletes to be compensated. Some speculate this could also open the door for legal challenges for the NCAA based upon their current business model.
A district court previously ruled that the NCAA was violating antitrust laws by limiting the education-related benefits that colleges and universities are able to give athletes. The Supreme Court then affirmed that decision.
The ruling allows schools to provide unlimited compensation to their student-athletes as long as the compensation is related to their education in some way.
Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the court’s opinion for the NCAA v. Alston case. He stated that the court limited the scope of its decision to strictly focus on education-related benefits instead of delving deeper into concerns and questions about the NCAA’s business model.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh published an opinion of his own in agreement with Gorsuch to shed light on possible future legal issues for the NCAA.
Kavanugh suggested that if the NCAA restricts any type of compensation to student-athletes – including direct payment for athletic achievements – they may be due for more future antitrust challenges in court.
“The NCAA is not above the law,” Kavanaugh wrote. “The NCAA couches its arguments for not paying student athletes in innocuous labels. But the labels cannot disguise the reality: The NCAA’s business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America.”
“All of the restaurants in a region cannot come together to cut cooks’ wages on the theory that ‘customers prefer’ to eat food from low-paid cooks. Law firms cannot conspire to cabin lawyers’ salaries in the name of providing legal services out of a ‘love of the law’. Hospitals cannot agree to cap nurses’ income in order to create a ‘purer’ form of helping the sick. News organizations cannot join forces to curtail pay to reporters to preserve a ‘tradition’ of public-minded journalism. Movie studios cannot collude to slash benefits to camera crews to kindle a ‘spirit of amateurism’ in Hollywood. Price-fixing labor is price-fixing labor.”
Alston and his attorneys argued that it is illegal to place any restrictions on what schools can offer to their athletes in compensation. New antitrust lawsuits have already been filed with similar arguments against the NCAA.
“Even though the decision does not directly address name, image and likeness, the NCAA remains committed to supporting NIL benefits for student-athletes,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement regarding the ruling. “Additionally, we remain committed to working with Congress to chart a path forward, which is a point the Supreme Court expressly stated in its ruling.”
Monday marked the first time in over 30 years that the Supreme Court has weighed in on how college sports are governed. In 1985, the court ruled in NCAA v. Board of Regents of Oklahoma University that the NCAA was violating antitrust laws by limiting the amount of times a single school could appear on television.