Unanimous Supreme Court decision says NCAA wrong to limit student athletes from getting academic ‘perks’

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously against the NCAA Monday, affirming two lower court rulings that found student athletes should not be prohibited from getting perks related to their education.

The NCAA had previously prevented student athletes from getting laptops, science equipment, musical instruments, paid internships, and other “tangible” items related to their enrollment in college.

A lower court and appeals court both ruled that the NCAA was in violation of antitrust laws for saying students could not be given these items, and the Supreme Court agreed.

Experts say the case could lead to college athletes receiving salaries and being allowed to get endorsements or sell memorabilia, which they are also not allowed to do under NCAA rules.

“Price fixing” not fair to athletes

The NCAA argued that the athletes could not be considered amateurs if they were allowed to receive compensation, even for education-related items and expenses, but the court rejected their argument.

“Put simply, this suit involves admitted horizontal price fixing in a market where the defendants exercise monopoly control,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court.

“The NCAA is free to argue that, ‘because of the special characteristics of [its] particular industry,’ it should be exempt from the usual operation of the antitrust laws — but that appeal is ‘properly addressed to Congress,’” Gorsuch added.

A concurring opinion from Brett Kavanaugh suggested that the court could go further if future cases are brought against the NCAA over endorsements or other payouts.

Kavanaugh says NCAA “not above the law”

“Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate,” Kavanaugh wrote. “And under ordinary principles of antitrust law, it is not evident why college sports should be any different. The NCAA is not above the law.”

If college athletes do get compensated for their athletic efforts, however, it could jeopardize Title IX rules that say male and female athletes need to be treated equally in sports.

Would male football and basketball players be paid the same as female field hockey or lacrosse players, for instance, even though football and basketball generate the bulk of the income for colleges?

While this narrow issue has been settled by the court, many more questions remain.

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