Supreme Court Ruling is Another Step Toward Economic Justice for College Athletes

By Ken Reed

Who says there’s a divide on the Supreme Court?

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled the NCAA is in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act by limiting athletes’ academic-related benefits. In a concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh called for a broader rebuke of NCAA athlete compensation limits, calling the current NCAA model a form of “price-fixing labor.” He wrote that the NCAA’s compensation rules would be “flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America” and noted that the NCAA isn’t above the law.

A ruling like this has been needed for a long time.

“The NCAA’s amateur ideals are contrived,” says civil rights historian Taylor Branch. “I think it’s fundamentally dishonest the way the NCAA and these schools have taken advantage of athletes in college.”

This Supreme Court ruling shoots down the NCAA’s longstanding argument through the years that the association deserves favorable treatment under federal antitrust law.

Writing for the Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch was critical of the “amateur label” in college sports. In particular, he cited the economic injustice of everyone involved in college sports profiting handsomely except the athletes who create the product.

“Those who run this enterprise,” Justice Gorsuch wrote, “profit in a different way than the student-athletes whose activities they oversee. The president of the NCAA earns nearly $4 million per year.” He also pointed to the million-dollar salaries paid to conference commissioners, college athletic directors, coaches and assistant coaches while athletes are hamstrung by the NCAA’s amateurism business model.

This Supreme Court ruling doesn’t scrap the NCAA’s archaic amateur rules in their entirety, but it opens the door further toward economic justice for athletes.

Ditching restrictive amateur rules and allowing athletes more economic freedom didn’t ruin the Olympics and it won’t ruin college sports.

What it will do is provide college athletes with the same civil and economic rights that every other college student enjoys.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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