Trey Johnson Claims NCAA Violates Minimum-Wage Laws

By Ken Reed

Trey Johnson, a former defensive back at Villanova and now a Canadian Football League player, has filed a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA, accusing the organization of violating minimum-wage laws by refusing to pay athletes like employees.

Johnson’s lawsuit claims athletes’ hours are tracked in the same manner as students in work-study programs on campuses across the country. He argues that since work-study students are being paid to take tickets at games, sell popcorn and help fans find their seats, the players on the field providing the entertainment should be paid as well.

“This is not about being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, and we are not limiting this case only to the select few athletes that can receive endorsement deals,” Johnson, 25, who is on the practice squad of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, said in a statement.

“We are simply asking the N.C.A.A. to pay its student athletes the basic minimum wage as required by federal law. They pay the students who tear the tickets and sell popcorn at our games. The least that the N.C.A.A. can do for those who bring so much money to the N.C.A.A. and its schools would be to pay them the minimum wage.”

Johnson’s lawyer says the suit has a couple of challenges that must be successfully dealt with in order for the suit to be successful.

“We have two hurdles,” said Michael J. Willemin of the Manhattan firm Wigdor Law LLP.

“We have to convince a court that employee tests should be conducted, and then we have to convince the court that when you look at the test, the student athletes are employees.”

The lawsuit is the latest effort to allow college athletes to share in the revenue their efforts create.

It’s called economic justice, and it’s a term the NCAA despises and a movement it continues to fight.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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