The Supreme Court focused on whether the NCAAs hard limits on athlete compensation violate antitrust law, not the policy debate on player endorsements smoldering inside Capitol Hill, state legislatures and stadiums. But the antitrust case represents a fundamental threat to the athletic associations business model, which is playing out while the NCAA and powerful college sports conferences lobby Congress to regulate how players can sign third-party endorsements.
The suit, NCAA v. Alston, named for former West Virginia running back Shawne Alston, is one of several antitrust cases filed by current and former college athletes against the NCAA. Mondays decision is likely to spawn several more after the justices found a previous 1984 decision doesnt prevent suing the association for alleged antitrust violations.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in a concurring opinion, chastised the NCAA for its arguments that it was immune from antitrust scrutiny.
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. 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, Kavanaugh wrote.
The NCAA appealed a lower court decision that ruled the association must let schools offer costly educational benefits and even cash awards for student athletes.
The association and its attorneys have pressed justices to protect the organizations governance model for roughly 1,200 member schools and athletic conferences, and argued that the lower court ruling distorts federal antitrust law. But Mondays unanimous ruling roundly rejected the NCAAs arguments.