Court: NCAA Does Not Employ or Have to Pay Athletes

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A federal court found that the NCAA does not employ the student-athletes that participate in its sanctioned events, and therefore is not obligated to pay them. 

The ruling stems from the case brought by former University of Southern California football player Lamar Dawson, who sued the NCAA as well as the Pac-12 Conference in 2016, alleging that he — and other Division I football players — are owed money for acting for those entities as employees.

Dawson’s original lawsuit sought minimum wage, overtime pay and other compensation, according to ESPN, claiming that the NCAA and Pac-12 violated both the Fair Labor Standards Act and the California Labor Code.

Bloomberg reports that the ruling, issued on Monday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, affirms a lower court’s dismissal of the case in 2017. 

“Dawson cannot demonstrate that the NCAA or the Pac-12 had the power to fire or hire him,” Chief Judge Sidney Thomas wrote in the opinion, continuing to say that Dawson’s claims “demonstrate that the NCAA functions as a regulator, and that the NCAA member schools, for whom the student-athletes allegedly render services, enforce regulations.”

It likely comes as a relief to the NCAA, which is facing pressure both in court and in state legislatures for reform. One such pressure is a March ruling by another federal judge, which found that certain NCAA rules regarding compensation for student-athletes were violations of antitrust law, and that student-athletes may be compensated for education-related expenses beyond current caps mandated by rule. Another is the legislation making its way through the state house in California, which would allow student-athletes to seek compensation for use of their image, name and likeness.

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