Multiple Pro Players Associations File Brief Backing College Athletes in NCAA Supreme Court Case

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Supreme Court

On Wednesday, a brief on behalf of the players associations from the NFL, NBA, WNBA, NWSL and the Collegiate Association supporting college athletes in their appeal to challenge the NCAA's restrictions on educated-related benefits above the cost of attendance was filed in the United States Supreme Court in NCAA v. Alston, et al.. 

The high court had previously agreed in December to review a lower court decision in an antitrust lawsuit the NCAA had said blurred “the line between student-athletes and professionals” by removing limits on compensation that major college football and basketball players can receive.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments for the case on March 31.

The case was brought by former West Virginia football player Shawne Alston and others.

“It is time for the Supreme Court to reaffirm that the big multibillion-dollar businesses of Division I basketball and FBS football are fully subject to antirust review and that the era of exploiting the athletes who provide the labor in these businesses must come to an end," Jeffrey Kessler, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said in December.

Among the briefs filed Wednesday, the amicus brief uniting the nation's most prominent players associations says it looks to defend the rights of college athletes, writing that "[N]o one could sincerely believe that Alabama versus Auburn at Bryant-Denny Stadium in November will suddenly become indistinguishable from an NFL game because a few players received a musical instrument or a graduate school scholarship. 

"Nor would an upset win by a 16th seed or a Cinderella run during March Madness become indistinguishable from NBA games because a basketball player was promised a future internship with his or her conference or school.”

The brief also rejects the NCAA's claims that amateurism supports the NCAA's educational model and adds that the NCAA has made amateurism "meaningless" and “malleable. The brief argues that colleges are free to spend millions of dollars on luxury facilities and the salaries of coaches, but cannot offer college athletes academic incentives, graduate scholarships or post-eligibility internships.

In December, Donald Remy, the NCAA's chief legal officer said in a statement that, “The NCAA and its members continue to believe that college campuses should be able to improve the student-athlete experience without facing never-ending litigation regarding these changes."

The case marks the first time in more than three decades that the Supreme Court is hearing a case that involves the NCAA. 

As the Supreme Court case gets sorted out, the NCAA is also weighing how athletes are allowed to benefit from their publicity rights during their college careers. 

Florida is scheduled to be the first U.S. state to have a law allowing athletes to accept endorsement money for their name, image and likeness go into effect on July 1. Nebraska's law could go into effect this year with other states expected to consider similar legislation. 

In January, the NCAA elected to indefinitely delay a vote on the proposed rule change that would update how athletes are allowed to benefit from their NIL rights.