The Supreme Court of the United States ruled unanimously On Monday that the NCAA had violated antitrust law in the case about a range of permitted education-related benefits that college athletes can receive. This ruling provides for an incremental increase in compensation for the college athletes and opens the door for future legal challenges.
The legal victory for the athletes deals a blow to the NCAA’s longstanding policy of strictly limiting compensation beyond free tuition, room and board, but stops short of a sweeping decision allowing salaries for college athletes.
Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the court’s opinion, which upheld a district court judge’s decision that the NCAA was violating antitrust law by placing limits on the education-related benefits that schools can provide to athletes.
Gorsuch wrote, “That relaxing these restrictions would not blur the distinction between college and professional sports and thus impair demand among consumers” as argued by the NCAA.
Gorsuch also wrote that 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 takes a harder line, 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.
“The NCAA is not above the law,” Kavanaugh wrote. “The NCAA couches its arguments for not paying student athletes in innocuous labels. But the labels cannot disguise the reality: The NCAA’s business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America.”
“We’re thrilled with the decision. It opens the door for further challenges to the NCAA’S biased compensation practices. It knocks out the NCAA defense,” said Steve Berman, co-lead counsel for the group of former athletes that filed the case.
“Even though the decision does not directly address name, image and likeness, the NCAA remains committed to supporting NIL benefits for student-athletes,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert, referring to the association’s 2020 policy decision. “Additionally, we remain committed to working with Congress to chart a path forward, which is a point the Supreme Court expressly stated in its ruling.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who has been one of the association’s most outspoken critics on Capitol Hill, said “The status quo on ‘amateurism’ is finally changing and the NCAA no longer has carte blanche to control athletes’s livelihoods and monopolize the market. This is the kind of justice, and basic rights, college athletes deserve.”