Supreme Court's NCAA Ruling Is a Big Deal

Decision undermines group's longstanding argument against student pay
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2021 1:53 PM CDT
Supreme Court's NCAA Ruling Is a Big Deal
Michigan's Isaiah Livers wears a T-shirt that reads "#NotNCAAProperty" during a game in March 2021.   (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

The Supreme Court ruled against the NCAA Monday in a case involving the compensation of student athletes, and the decision is getting lots of attention for good reason. The unanimous decision is "narrow but potentially transformative," writes Nina Totenberg at NPR. That is, while the case doesn't address the larger issue of whether schools can pay salaries to student-athletes, it blasts a hole in the NCAA's longstanding rationale forbidding any kind of pay to athletes, and that could lead to a bigger decision in the future. Coverage:

  • The justices ruled that schools should be allowed to give students what amount to financial perks, provided they are related to education. That could mean things such as musical instruments, tutoring, scientific equipment, postgrad scholarships, and study abroad, per the New York Times.

  • The NCAA has long barred schools from doling out such benefits because it says it wants to preserve student-athletes' amateur status, reports the AP. The organization argues that schools will keep sweetening offers to recruits with such benefits, setting off bidding wars for high school seniors. But the court, in an opinion written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, said that stance violates anti-trust laws and that the NCAA's we're-looking-out-for-the-students argument doesn't justify making an exception.
  • The bigger concern to the NCAA may be in a concurring opinion written by Brett Kavanaugh in which he signaled that the court may be willing to knock down all restrictions on student pay in a future case, per the Washington Post. Tradition "cannot justify the NCAA’s decision to build a massive money-raising enterprise on the backs of student athletes who are not fairly compensated," he wrote. "And under ordinary principles of antitrust law," he added, "it is not evident why college sports should be any different. The NCAA is not above the law.”
  • In short, Monday's decision "could have broad ramifications for the future of college sports," per the Wall Street Journal. The story notes that other pressures are coming to bear on the NCAA, as multiple states give student-athletes the right to earn money from their names and likenesses. State lawmakers don't want their own schools to lose out on top recruits by failing to enact such laws, and the NCAA's request for an overriding federal law hasn't resulted in legislation out of Congress.
  • Monday's ruling doesn't "unleash salary wars in college sports—at least not yet," writes Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. But as narrow as it is, the ruling undermines the NCAA's monopoly power, he writes, "and states may end up doing the rest."
(More NCAA stories.)

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