Is SCOTUS right to rule against NCAA for student athletes?


Fact Box

  • The National Collegiate Athletic Association is a combination of members like colleges, universities, and athletic conferences that support the success and livelihood of college athletes. 
  • On Monday, June 21, 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled to support incremental increases in college athlete compensation. The NCAA was previously violating antitrust laws through limiting benefits for athlete programs. 
  • The NCAA’s initial argument centered on the difference between college athletes versus professional sports players. Florida and Alabama were the first states to overrule the NCAA and authorize college athletes to make money on endorsements. 
  • The last time SCOTUS participated in college sports governing was in 1985 NCAA v. Board of Regents of Oklahoma University and found the NCAA guilty of breaking antitrust laws to limit athletes on television.

Andrew (Yes)

In writing for the unanimous court decision, Justice Gorsuch clearly articulated why the Supreme Court was correct to rule the way it did; the NCAA has a monopoly over college athletes and, as such, is engaging in 'horizontal price-fixing.' This is illegal under the Sherman Antitrust Act. The Supreme Court Justices rightly recognized that the NCAA has engaged in anti-competitive measures and ruled according to the law as it is written. 

This decision is about more than simply antitrust laws; college athletes are the main attraction in a huge, international business that brings in enormous sums of money but won't allow its athletes a share. The NCAA brings in around a billion dollars a year just from TV licensing and championship ticket sales for men's basketball alone. Why must they insist on denying their players any form of payment?

Those opposing the professionalization of college sports will often point to the scholarships and access to training and facilities that these young athletes receive. It's true, a free college education is worth tens of thousands of dollars, but this simply doesn't stack up against the possible revenue streams these athletes could bring in on their own. Many of these athletes are truly exceptional and should be allowed to be compensated for their abilities. Allowing these players to be paid while still in school may encourage more athletes to finish their degrees rather than opting to go pro at a younger age.

Finally, as Justice Gorsuch pointed out, the NCAA still has the option to ask that Congress carve out an exception to these rules, making this SCOTUS ruling narrow and justified.


Morgan (No)

By offering more gifts and compensation, students will put more time and energy into their athletics in an attempt to receive more, while their education will undoubtedly suffer. The common university phrase 'students first, athletes second' exists for a reason. The compensation that comes with being a student athlete may tempt some students to give up on the degree they attended their university for in the first place. 

While Justice Neil Gorsuch said the ruling 'would not blur the distinction between college and professional sports,' the NCAA's limits on compensation for college athletes are one of the key factors that distinguish college athletes from professionals. The limits placed on compensation for college athletes are there on purpose. College sports are meant to be something students do because they enjoy and to help them get through school—it's not (yet) a career. It's wonderful for the few who do go professional, but as a college athlete, you're not yet a professional and, therefore, shouldn't be compensated like one. 

When a student goes to a university and becomes a student athlete for their school, they shouldn't be focused on the level of compensation they receive beyond receiving a full-ride through school, including room and board, meal plans, and tuition scholarships—after all, that's why they're there. Encouraging students to prioritize the compensation and additional things they might get through their sport playing sets a poor precedent and is poor sportsmanship. In addition, this ruling makes it more tempting for coaches and administration to fall into corruption, such as bribery, which will transform college athletics into being solely about the money and not the students or the alumnus who love to cheer their teams on.

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