The Supreme Court of the United States unanimously ruled on Monday morning that the NCAA cannot limit education-related benefits that schools provide to student-athletes, such as free laptops or paid post graduate internships, thus dealing a significant blow to the NCAA’s current business model.
The court focused solely on education-related benefits as part of the case against the NCAA brought on by former West Virginia running back Shawne Alston and did not delve further into the governing body’s other compensation rules.
“Those remaining compensation rules generally restrict student-athletes from compensation or benefits from their colleges from playing sports,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote. “And those rules have also historically restricted student-athletes from receiving money from endorsement deals and the like. I add this concurring opinion to underscore that the NCAA’s remaining compensation rules also raise serious questions under the antitrust laws.
“Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate. And under ordinary principles of antitrust law, it is not evident why college sports should be any different. The NCAA is not above the law.
“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."
The Supreme Court’s ruling comes at a time when 19 states, including Ohio, are preparing to enact legislation that will allow student-athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness.
It’s also the first time since 1985 that the Supreme Court got involved with the governance of college athletics, as it previously ruled that the NCAA was breaking antitrust laws by limiting the number of times a school could appear on television.
“Even though the decision does not directly address name, image and likeness, the NCAA remains committed to supporting NIL benefits for student-athletes,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. “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.”
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