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Supreme Court Rules Unanimously: NCAA and Colleges Violate Antitrust Laws By Not Compensating Athletes

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously against the NCAA in NCAA v. Alston on Monday, marking one of the most significant sports law decisions in history.

The Justices concluded that the NCAA and its member schools and conferences are in violation of Section I of the Sherman Antitrust Act, affirming a district court judge’s decision that the NCAA violated antitrust law by placing limits on the education-related benefits that schools can provide to athletes in 2020, Sportico reports. The violation stems from members agreeing to limit how much each can compensate athletes for academic-related costs.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the court’s opinion and said the nation’s highest court limited the scope of its decision on those education-related benefits rather than delving further into questions about the association’s business model.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh published a concurring opinion that makes more of an impact, suggesting that the NCAA’s rules that restrict any type of compensation — including direct payment for athletic accomplishments — might no longer hold up well in future antitrust challenges. “I add this concurring opinion to underscore that the NCAA’s remaining compensation rules also raise serious questions under the antitrust laws,” Kavanaugh wrote.

“The NCAA has long restricted the compensation and benefits that student athletes may receive. And with surprising success, the NCAA has long shielded its compensation rules from ordinary antitrust scrutiny. Today, however, the Court holds that the NCAA has violated the antitrust laws,” he wrote in the opinion. “The Court’s decision marks an important and overdue course correction, and I join the Court’s excellent opinion in
full.”

According to Kavanaugh’s assent, the NCAA asserted that its compensation rules help foster competition because those rules help define the product of college sports. However, Kavanaugh argues, the NCAA used innocuous labels in its arguments to distract from “the reality”:

“But the labels cannot disguise the reality: The NCAA’s business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America,” he wrote.

Sportico reports that this case does not obligate schools to spend more on academic-related expenses. Rather, Monday’s ruling provides schools with the discretion to do so.

This ruling does nothing to change NIL reforms.

Schools will soon vie for athletes more freely, just like they compete—and sometimes outbid—for coaches, staff, faculty, fundraising, admissions, media attention and numerous other targets, the article states. If a college doesn’t wish to reimburse athletes a higher dollar amount for academic-related expenses, it doesn’t have to. However, limited spending may make the school less attractive to recruits.

Check back at OutKick for updates.

Written by Meg Turner

Meg graduated from the University of Central Florida and writes and tweets about anything related to sports. She replies to comments she shouldn't reply to online and thinks the CFP Rankings are absolutely rigged. Follow her on Twitter at @Megnturner_ and Instagram at @Megnturner.

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