US Supreme Court rules against NCAA, allows student-athletes to be compensated

Hunter Shelton

In a landmark ruling for the landscape of college athletics, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled against the NCAA on Monday, allowing student athletes to be able to receive unlimited education-related payments.

The decision stated the NCAA can no longer block schools from giving additional education-related benefits to the players they recruit, allowing more money to go to the players rather than the billion-dollar industry that has long overseen the compensation of college athletes. 

The case arose after current and former college athletes sued the NCAA and 11 conferences, claiming that the rules that restrict compensation violated antitrust laws.

Under current NCAA rules, students are not allowed to be paid, and scholarship money that a school can offer is restricted to the cost of attending that school. 

“To the extent [the NCAA] means to propose a sort of judicially ordained immunity from the terms of the Sherman Act for its restraints of trade—that we should overlook its restrictions because they happen to fall at the intersection of higher education, sports, and money—we cannot agree,” said Justice Neil Gorsuch in the court’s opinion.

The NCAA’s long-term stance against the compensation of its student-athletes has been that their limits protect the amateur nature of college sports and being a product for fans, creating a line between it and professional sports.  

“The NCAA is not above the law,” said Justice Brett Kavanaugh in a concurring opinion. “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,” Kavanaugh wrote. 

The court ruled that the NCAA can still forbid schools from allowing student salaries or providing gifts that could lure players to their programs. 

“Under the current decree, the NCAA is free to forbid in-kind benefits unrelated to a student’s actual education,” Gorsuch said. “Nothing stops it from enforcing a ‘no Lamborghini’ rule.” 

“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.

The ruling is another step toward the the payment of all college athletes. The past two years have seen laws passed in 19 states that refute the NCAA’s rules, allowing student athletes to profit from third-party endorsements. These laws are set to come into effect July 1.

“It is our hope that this victory in the battle for college athletes’ rights will carry on a wave of justice uplifting further aspects of athlete compensation. This is the fair treatment college athletes deserve,’ Steve Berman, lawyer for the athletes plaintiffs’ said on Monday. 

Multiple other bills that aim at reforming the NCAA and athlete compensation have also hit the Congress floor, and Monday’s ruling could create a domino effect in the months to come.