The Supreme Court this week agreed to hear the NCAA’s appeal of a lower court ruling that found the association to be in violation of federal antitrust law by restricting the kinds of compensation college athletes could receive related to their education.
“NCAA limits on education-related benefits do not play by the Sherman Act’s rules,” argued the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a May ruling.
The Sherman Act prohibits any activity that restricts interstate commerce and competition in the marketplace. In other words, the NCAA maintains unlawful rules that restrict competition and prevent players from earning money.
“It is time for the Supreme Court to reaffirm that the antitrust laws apply fully to the multibillion-dollar business of Division 1 basketball and FBS football and that the era of exploiting athletes who provide the labor in those businesses is at an end,” argues Jeffrey Kessler, a lawyer for athlete plaintiffs. “At a time when we are all looking for a little bit of good news in hard times, this means that when college sports comes back it will be a much fairer system.”
As it stands, the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling allows college athletes to receive a variety of education-related benefits including study-abroad programs, internships, computers, musical instruments, and paid-for graduate school.
The ruling does not affect NCAA limits on athlete compensation unrelated to education.
In its petition to the Supreme Court, the NCAA argues that the lower court’s ruling threatens to hinder the association’s ability to organize intercollegiate athletics.
The NCAA has already agreed to allow players to sign endorsement deals beginning in 2021 – a huge policy shift – but fears that expanded monetary compensation will ‘turn off fans’ and ‘blur the traditional line between college and professional athletes.’
Critics argue that college athletes already receive adequate compensation for their work in the form of scholarships and other benefits.
No matter what decision the Supreme Court makes, the NCAA’s new rules on endorsement deals will help decrease the financial imbalance between athletes and the institutions that profit from their blood, sweat, and tears.
The highest potential earnings are likely to come from video games.
“If there’s a world where the folks who govern these things are able to solve how to pay players for the use of their name and likeness and stats and data, we would jump at the opportunity to build a game in a heartbeat,” says Andrew Wilson, CEO of Electronic Arts.
Electronic Arts was forced to discontinues its NCAA Football video game series in 2013 amid a slew of lawsuits filed by college athletes seeking compensation.
The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision by June, shortly before the next school year begins.