NCAA Can’t Ban Colleges From Compensating Athletes, Supreme Court Says
The Supreme Court has delivered a unanimous smackdown to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for its rules banning schools from compensating college athletes.
The court’s unanimous ruling today in NCAA v. Alston is actually a relatively narrow one that deals only with whether schools can give student-athletes education-related benefits, such as providing free laptops or access to internships as a condition of playing sports. But the case seems likely to throw open the doors to a broader challenge to the NCAA’s requirement that student-athletes be unpaid amateurs. In a fiery concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh outlined how that next step might go—and it doesn’t look great for the NCAA.
“The NCAA’s business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America,” wrote Kavanaugh, a former college basketball player. “Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate.”
For example, Kavanaugh wrote, restaurants could not agree to refuse to pay their cooks under the theory that consumers would prefer to eat food prepared by amateur chefs. Likewise, law firms would not be allowed to ban compensation for their attorneys under the premise that lawyers were working “out of a ‘love of the law.'” But this exactly what the NCAA has long argued: that even giving college athletes the most minimal of compensation for their efforts would somehow sully the games that the NCAA earns big bucks by marketing to television.
“The NCAA is not above the law,” Kavanaugh concluded.
NCAA v. Alston originated back in 2014, when Shawne Alston, a University of West Virginia football player, and dozens of other former Division I college football and basketball players sued over the “interconnected set of NCAA rules that limit the compensation they may receive in exchange for th
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