Today a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court, in an opinion by Justice Gorsuch, upheld a 9th Circuit decision that the NCAA’s rules for compensating Division I football and basketball players are subject to a full Rule of Reason analysis, and that NCAA conferences and school may permit certain education-related benefits.
The underlying decision involved a district court’s injunction of restrictions by NCAA conferences and schools that imposed caps on education-related benefits to athletes, such as rules that limit scholarships for graduate or vocational school, payments for academic tutoring, or paid post-eligibility internships. The 9th Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision and the NCAA appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s opinion upheld the lower courts’ findings that providing certain education-related benefits to students would not blur the line between college and professional sports, and therefore would not lead to a decrease in viewership for college games on television.
In a concurring opinion, Justice Kavanaugh warned that other NCAA restrictions likely may not withstand further antitrust scrutiny. He noted that the financial disparity between the billions of dollars made off of student-athletes’ labor, was unfair and would not be permitted in any other labor market. Justice Kavanaugh also cited an amicus brief submitted by Bradford Edwards & Varlack LLP on behalf of a group of African American Antitrust Lawyers, noting the specific harm to Black Division I student athletes.
Justice Kavanaugh wrote: “The bottom line is that the NCAA and its member colleges are suppressing the pay of student athletes who collectively generate billions of dollars in revenues for colleges every year. Those enormous sums of money flow to seemingly everyone except the student athletes. College presidents, athletic directors, coaches, conference commissioners, and NCAA executives take in six- and seven-figure salaries. Colleges build lavish new facilities. But the student athletes who generate the revenues, many of whom are African American and from lower-income backgrounds, end up with little or nothing. See Brief for African American Antitrust Lawyers as Amici Curiae 13–17.”
Bradford Edwards congratulates our colleagues Patrick A. Bradford and Denver G. Edwards; as well as Tillman J. Breckenridge, Christopher Wilson and Heather Choi, for their work on the firm’s amicus brief.