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SCOTUS Rules Unanimously NCAA Violates Antitrust Law by Limiting Athlete Education Compensation

SCOTUS Rules Unanimously NCAA Violates Antitrust Law by Limiting Athlete Education Compensation

“…the NCAA must allow colleges to recruit athletes by offering them additional compensation and benefits, as long as they are tied to education.”

The Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that the NCAA violates antitrust law with its strict rulings concerning student-athlete compensation.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the opinion for the ruling, stressing throughout the decision does not encompass all of the NCAA compensation rules:

The decision doesn’t open up a world of unlimited pay for college athletes, an issue that wasn’t before the court.

Instead, the justices said the NCAA must allow colleges to recruit athletes by offering them additional compensation and benefits, as long as they are tied to education.

That means schools could offer compensation beyond the cost of attending college, such as scholarships for graduate or vocational schools, internships, computer equipment and study-abroad programs—and limited cash awards for athletes who do well in the classroom.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh took it a step further in his concurring opinion. Kavanaugh has a problem with the rest of the NCAA compensation rules “raise serious questions under the antitrust laws.” He wrote:

In my view, that argument is circular and unpersuasive. 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” for 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,” continued Kavanaugh. “And price-fixing labor is ordinarily a textbook antitrust problem because it extinguishes the free market in which individuals can otherwise obtain fair compensation for their work.”


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JusticeDelivered | June 21, 2021 at 11:15 am

There should be something requiring colleges to have jocks who are actually smart enough to do college work, and to actually earn a degree on merit.

    More realistically you can only attend a specific university if you academically qualify. That means small schools would all become the athletic power houses as most of the best athletes academically can only qualify for these smaller schools.

      casualobserver in reply to NotCoach. | June 21, 2021 at 2:03 pm

      Not true. Some of the biggest public schools like Ohio State or Alabama maintain standards that allow them to explode towards 50,000 students and maybe one day 100,000 if politicians make it FREE (sarcasm). Since education is a booming business and nothing close to a supply-demand market, it will be manipulated as needed to meet the ends. Trust me.

The other side is that the teams are not business competitors. It’s entertainment that they cooperate to provide.

The fiction is that they’re competitors.

Well, why not just skip college and start a minor league for all sports. Lets stop pretending. It is all about the money.

Face it, college sports are toast. With Transgender and now this, you really have to wonder what the next sport with watching is. Something tells me the political is going to get hotter.

    NotCoach in reply to MarkSmith. | June 21, 2021 at 11:46 am

    Tranny fascism is killing women’s athletics, not men’s. Men’s athletics is the best of the best, not restricted to just men. Therefore even if some fake man qualified to play for a men’s athletic organization this person isn’t just mentally ill, but also physically skilled.

      UserP in reply to NotCoach. | June 21, 2021 at 1:58 pm

      The trouble with trannies is they don’t last long. I had one car I put 3 new trannies in it in one year.

        The Friendly Grizzly in reply to UserP. | June 21, 2021 at 4:16 pm

        Where did you take them?

          Well, every time I went to the garage to pick up my car the mechanic would always say “she” runs good now. So then I would take her out for a little spin. She handled real good so I’d take her home and everything would be fine for awhile but she always ended up blowing a seal.

    casualobserver in reply to MarkSmith. | June 21, 2021 at 2:06 pm

    A few acronyms prove that there isn’t an audience for paid football outside of the NFL. Like XFL, USFL, WFL, etc.

    College football competes with NFL for audience and revenue. Those fan groups couldn’t be more distinct although there is plenty of crossover. But not entirely. Go to New England and it’s probably 3 to 1 NFL to CFB fans. Go to the Southeast and it’s probably the reverse.

I am not persuaded that ‘athletes’ are employees. Couldn’t that employee label be applied to every Student who engages in any University sponsored extracurricular activity?

The debate team represents the University as much as the Football team. The difference between them is marketability of the activity. The marketplace rewards revenue producing activities like Football, Mens basketball far more than other activities like tennis.

Is the difference the grant of an athletic scholarship? If so is that distinction based upon cost to the University? If the Marketplace was willing to compensate academic debates in a similar manner to Football wouldn’t scholarships be offered to those Students?

Does this rejection of the marketplace also mean that Universities are now free to choose to expand or contract the number of Scholarship activities? Can they now eliminate entire team and individual sports that are non revenue generating?

For Women’s sports this would mean eliminating everything but Women’s Basketball from almost all Universities. In a few Universities Women’s Softball and Women’s Gymnastics are revenue neutral so those extracurricular activities pay their own way but don’t contribute to the overall budget.

    Close The Fed in reply to CommoChief. | June 21, 2021 at 2:33 pm

    Eliminating many women’s teams would be advantageous. Title Whatever requires the female/male sports being equally available or whatever.

    It’s the law that needs to go, and women’s sports would naturally decline. I have very little interest in participating in most sports. Not my thing. Never was.

For once I find myself in agreement with the US Supreme Court. Despite what university presidents and ADs may like you to believe, college sports is swimming in cash (particularly football and basketball). Either give some back to the student athletes as salaries, or drastically up the number of scholarships.

    casualobserver in reply to Recovering Lutheran. | June 21, 2021 at 2:09 pm

    Most college football fans agree there needs to be better revenue sharing. The problem like all things political is that a minority of advocates have the loudest voices and are trying to have the most leverage or say. Those that want it to be completely non-amateur and a NFL like structure INCLUDING not ties to education. Make THAT happen, and college football will go the way of the XFL and all the other variants that could never compete in the pro space.

      Dejectedhead in reply to casualobserver. | June 21, 2021 at 4:53 pm

      Revenue sharing in college athletics is shared between university teams. Men’s Football and basketball fund the other sports.

      Plus, just recently they allowed for paying players with Cost of Living payments.

    That is absolutely not true. Only the biggest Universities with powerful football or men’s basketball make any money. Very few Women’s programs make money, it’s the men’s football and basketball that carry the expenses.
    My daughter played BB for. D1 school, believe me, I know

    This will kill a lot of sports.
    Personally I think a free education is payment enough for being on a team.
    This is the wrong decision
    Stick a fork in it, college sports are dead

@Commochief – Title IX will keep Women’s sports in the mix until spectators get bored of not having any XX women participating.

    CommoChief in reply to ChuckinFL. | June 21, 2021 at 4:51 pm

    Will it though? If athletes are now employees and not Students then just as in every business the unprofitable divisions or units are shutdown. Why would unprofitable sports teams be any different?

A couple of issues:

Legit beefs athletes have with the current system:
College athletes are prohibited from being paid elsewhere for their sport- like pro-competitions. So if you win a marathon with 10k of price money, you either have to reject the prize money or give up your place on the team and your scholarship. This happened to more than one of my friends/team mates. Some just snuck off to Europe and ran the pro circuit anyway and hoped to not get caught. I don’t think this ruling addresses the exclusivity.

Second: Taking gifts or other sponsorships from outside the school. The school can pimp them out all day long for posters and such for donors,
but athletes can’t drum up any of the revenue for themselves.

I think this ruling is awful for the black community. Now you have the problem of every black kid thinking his way “up” is through pro sports on steroids. Sorry kid- your best bet is engineering/med school… this ruling aint doing those kids any favors.

The ruling upholds the basic structure of the NCAA’s “no pay for play” rules while allowing for a few minor adjustments in it’s policies regarding scholarship money.

It is a pro-NCAA decision masquerading as one which overturns longstanding amateurism policies. It doesn’t.

And as a college football fan, I like it.

2smartforlibs | June 21, 2021 at 2:25 pm

TIme to reallocate that scholarship money.

Close The Fed | June 21, 2021 at 2:35 pm

College athletes deserve to be released from their chains. All of them. The exploitation of young naive men by colleges disgraces the colleges.

Give them freedom.

    CommoChief in reply to Close The Fed. | June 21, 2021 at 9:24 pm

    If these folks feel exploited they have the freedom to join the military and ‘sell’ four years to Uncle Sam. The post 9/11 GI Bill benefits are very much comparable to a Scholarship. Tuition, books, tutoring and a pretty generous housing allowance. It’s a good deal.

    Of course that would mean potentially getting your ass shot in whereveristan v an ACL injury…..

I don’t like the power the NCAA has over college sports, we have seen it attempting to bully states into adopting transgenderism recently so this is in one way a good ruling.

In an other way it is a horrible ruling, colleges should be in the business of education and this will very directly result in colleges trending even more towards being sports facilities instead. Don’t they spend enough on athletics as is, and isn’t being given a free ride in return for athletics already a good deal for good athletes? If not why exactly are they in college?

Only difference I see is that they’ll be paying their top athletes over the table instead of under it.

    henrybowman in reply to txvet2. | June 21, 2021 at 5:25 pm

    Cynical me suspects this will work the same as “replacing” an old tax with a new tax. The new tax gets enacted, but somehow, the old tax never goes away.

    randian in reply to txvet2. | June 22, 2021 at 12:12 am

    Light is an excellent disinfectant.

One question I have is why connect these teams to universities at all? Why not have the towns own the teams? Why should prices for education to become a biologist or chemist go through the roof in the name of sports?

    Andy in reply to Danny. | June 21, 2021 at 10:27 pm

    Universities are basically a monopoly that prevents the minor leagues from filling the lower level feeders for football, basketball and to some degree baseball. It is a joke to call most of these athletes students. Those revenue sports are basically the universities taking a cut of the pre-NFL, pre-NBA and pre MLB salaries and doing some great marketing around their own brand loyalties.

    For other sports- like wrestlng, XC, volleyball, track, swimming and even golf, the university system has a lot of value. Many of those sports have minimal pro careers following college and the athletes tend to be more “student” like. Though golf /tennis are different beasts, the players tend to be more like students than the revenue sports.

      randian in reply to Andy. | June 22, 2021 at 12:12 am

      Baseball is the only major team sport that has a real minor league system. Everybody else essentially outsources their minor leagues to the universities. The teams avoid any financial or injury risk by having no investment in any prospect. This is far different than the baseball model, where you likely have spent money and time training your prospects, while also paying them a minimal salary.

      Danny in reply to Andy. | June 22, 2021 at 3:33 am

      But the minor leagues works very well with baseball and I am just wondering why can’t we do the same with other sports?

Despite the lovely words SCOTUS didn’t strike down the NCAA in full, as it should have. Universities still get to conspire under the auspices of the NCAA to limit what student-athletes can make.

It’s also no business of the NCAA whether students make money in pro or semi-pro sports. The Olympics abandoned forced amateurism, making Olympic sports a game for the wealthy, 30 years ago.

Standards are standards. At the University of Alabama here is the profile of the average person who is admitted:

GPA 3.71
SAT 1184
ACT 27

That is a fairly competitive profile for a public University. It won’t get you into an IVY or Stanford but this is the flagship State University. It doesn’t try and compare itself to those institutions.

In addition I would point out that Alabama has the highest GSR (graduation success rate) for ‘black’ football players at 84% and the second highest APR (Academic Progress Rate) at 990 out of a possible 1000 for every University.

By these measurements the University of Alabama actually outperformed every other institution which field a Football team in FBS such as Notre Dame, Stanford, Northwestern, Rice, Etc.