In a major decision, by a unanimous 9-0 vote, the United States Supreme Court ruled recently that the NCAA’s non-profit status does not permit it to enforce rules upon colleges and universities designed to prevent student athletes from seeking compensation for their sports performances, or their endorsements of products or services.
The NCAA has long-standing rules which prohibited colleges from providing anything to student-athletes for their athletic performance other than scholarships for tuition, room, board, and fees, and prohibited student athletes from otherwise profiting from their positions, such as through product endorsements. Recent cases have found violations of NCAA rules when student athletes were being provided with jerseys or other uniform equipment to sell at a profit, tattoos, vacation travel and expensive meals. Many highly-ranked university sports programs over the last few decades have been deemed ineligible, and forced out of lucrative NCAA sports tournaments or bowl games, because of such seemingly minor NCAA rules violations.
Now, with its decision in NCAA v. Alston, the Supreme Court has emphasized that the fact that the NCAA is a non-profit does not immunize it from the application of the antitrust laws.
It remains to be seen how the academic and monetary playing fields will change for tomorrow’s student athletes, but this decision is another step towards fairness for them. The antitrust and media, sports, and intellectual property lawyers at Earp Cohn, including Doug Johnson and Carrie Ward, are available for consultation with any clients who want to discuss the new competitive landscape for college-level student athletes.