The Supreme Court focused on whether the NCAA’s harsh limits on athlete compensation violated antitrust law, rather than the political debate over the player referrals simmering in Capitol Hill, state parliaments, and stadiums. But the cartel case poses a fundamental threat on the sports federation’s business model, which impacts while the NCAA and powerful college sports conferences are influencing Congress to regulate how players can sign third party endorsements.
The NCAA lawsuit against Alston, named after former West Virginia running back Shawne Alston, is one of several antitrust proceedings filed against the NCAA by current and former college athletes. Monday’s ruling is likely to spawn a few more after the judges found that an earlier 1984 ruling did not prevent the association from being sued for alleged antitrust violations.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh, in a unanimous opinion, reprimanded the NCAA for arguments that it was immune to antitrust scrutiny.
“Nowhere else in America can companies get away with not paying their workers a fair market price because their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market price. And according to the usual principles of antitrust law, it is not clear why university sports should be different. The NCAA is not above the law, ”wrote Kavanaugh.
The NCAA appealed a lower court ruling requiring the association to provide schools with costly educational benefits and even cash rewards for student athletes.
The association and its lawyers have urged judges to protect the organization’s governance model for around 1,200 member schools and sports conferences, and argued that the judgment of the lower court distorts federal antitrust law. But Monday’s unanimous verdict flatly dismissed the NCAA’s arguments.