The United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that challenges limits on the compensation that college athletes can receive.
The Supreme Court said Wednesday that it would take up the case after the NCAA appealed the case to the high court.
“We are pleased the U.S. Supreme Court will review the NCAA’s right to provide student-athletes with the educational benefits they need to succeed in school and beyond,” NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said in a statement. “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.”
In May, an appeals court upheld a ruling that blocked the NCAA from capping education-related benefits and compensation to athletes. The suit was brought against the NCAA by former West Virginia football player Shawne Alston. The NCAA then petitioned the Supreme Court after the ruling was upheld.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case said they were confident they would continue to prevail in the court system. The original ruling said that NCAA caps on benefits that players can receive were unreasonable restraints.
Plaintiffs' attorney Jeff Kessler, just now: "We'll win in the Supreme Court — that's my comment. We feel very confident in our position and we're looking forward to having this case heard." https://t.co/xlkjxa2zSF pic.twitter.com/rcuwxwBoul
— Steve Berkowitz (@ByBerkowitz) December 16, 2020
The NCAA and its member schools have long argued that athletes are amateurs and therefore shouldn’t be paid by their schools despite the millions of dollars in revenue that men’s basketball and football bring in. You can view the appeals court opinion in full here.
NCAA moving to change compensation rules
The NCAA’s successful push to get the Supreme Court to hear the case comes as it tries to reform its rules limiting compensation of athletes. The NCAA has been forced to make widespread changes to its restrictions as states like California and Florida have enacted laws that counter the NCAA’s current limits on compensation.
College athletes are currently unable to make money off their own names and images and take sponsorships or endorsements. In an effort to avoid having to deal with myriad state laws governing athlete compensation, the NCAA has asked Congress for federal framework and antitrust protection regarding updated rules that would allow athletes to get paid.
The NCAA and its member schools have made clear that there will still be guardrails for athlete compensation. An impending bill from Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker would put the Federal Trade Commission in charge of governing college athlete compensation.
In that bill, Wicker proposes that schools would be prohibited from classifying players as employees; universities have long argued that their players are students and not employees. Any rule changes allowing players to be compensated for their name and image rights would not include the ability for schools to pay players to help preserve the NCAA’s own definition of amateurism.
The most famous NCAA-related case at the Supreme Court is NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma. That 1984 case ruled against the NCAA and for the universities that sued regarding the television rights to college football broadcasts. The ruling helped lead to the modern college football television landscape where most top-level games are available on television or via streaming.
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