In a unanimous decision on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of former college athletes who filed an antitrust suit against the NCAA for its restrictions on compensation for student-athletes. The ruling could potentially transform college sports by directing more money towards athletes.
The case centered around the NCAA’s student compensation policy, which limits the education-related benefits — such as scholarships, paid internships, and more — that student-athletes can receive. The NCAA claims such benefits provide compensation akin to professional salaries, which distorts the boundaries of “amateur” college and professional sports.
However, the high court disagreed, stating that “relaxing these restrictions would not blur the distinction between college and professional sports and thus impair demand” and that it would allow individual athletic conferences the freedom to impose whatever rules they choose concerning NIL.
“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,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote. “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 ruling does not provide financial compensation to players. However, NCAA leaders say that the organization is planning nationwide NIL reforms to address the matter.
“Even though the decision does not directly address name, image and likeness, the NCAA remains committed to supporting (name, image and likeness) benefits for student-athletes,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement Monday. “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.”
This year, states such as Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and New Mexico passed NIL laws allowing student-athletes to receive compensation. Most of the laws will go into effect on July 1.
The NCAA has discouraged individual states from creating NIL policies, saying it favors centralized legislation on the matter.
The Biden administration and players associations for the NFL, the NBA, and the WNBA have advocated for the former student-athletes in this case, AP reports.