After years of debate over whether the NCAA should pay student athletes, the Supreme Court has finally weighed in.
SCOTUS ruled Monday that the NCAA cannot prevent students from receiving some education-related benefits for playing, such “scholarships for graduate or vocational school, payments for academic tutoring, or paid posteligibility internships.”
The court ruled unanimously for the student athletes that brought the suit, but the ruling does not allow for luxurious gifts or high salaries for the players.
“NCAA and its member colleges are suppressing the pay of student athletes who collectively generate billions of dollars in revenues for colleges every year,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh said in his concurring opinion. “Those enormous sums of money flow to seemingly everyone except for student athletes. The NCAA’s business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America.”
“All of the restaurants in a region cannot come together to cut cooks’ wages on the theory that ‘customers prefer’ to eat food from low-paid cooks,” he added.
Kavanaugh went further than other Justices, suggesting more action could be taken against the NCAA for their treatment of players.
“The NCAA acknowledges that it controls the market for college athletes,” he wrote. “The NCAA concedes that its compensation rules set the price of student athlete labor at a below-market rate. And the NCAA recognizes that student athletes currently have no meaningful ability to negotiate with the NCAA over the compensation rules,” he wrote. He went on to attack NCAA’s past argument that the rules are procompetitive because they help define college sports as featuring unpaid amateurs, calling this claim “circular and unpersuasive.”
The NCAA responded to the ruling in a statement.
“While today’s decision preserves the lower court ruling, it also reaffirms the NCAA’s authority to adopt reasonable rules and repeatedly notes that the NCAA remains free to articulate what are and are not truly educational benefits, consistent with the NCAA’s mission to support student-athletes,” the NCAA said.
There are still questions around whether students might be able to receive payment for money the NCAA makes using their name or likeness.
The organization’s president put a positive spin on the ruling as well.
“Even though the decision does not directly address name, image and likeness, the NCAA remains committed to supporting NIL benefits for student-athletes,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert. “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.”