NCAA Asks Supreme Court to Review Benefits Injunction

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The NCAA is asking the United States Supreme Court to review a ruling that found that the NCAA violated antitrust law by limiting student-athletes’ education-related benefits.

According to USA Today, the NCAA petitioned the Supreme Court on Thursday to overturn a March 2019 injunction in which U.S. district judge Claudia Wilken ruled that the “NCAA’s limits on compensation for athletes in major college football and basketball were in violation of antitrust laws and an unreasonable restraint on trade.”

“The NCAA’s longstanding commitment, supported by its schools and conferences, is to provide student-athletes with the educational benefits they need to succeed in school and beyond. While the District Court upheld the distinction between full-time students who play college sports and professional athletes, it erred by giving itself authority to micromanage decisions about education-related support,” NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said in a statement. “We believe, and the Supreme Court has recognized, that NCAA member schools and conferences are best positioned to strengthen and revise their rules to better support student-athletes, rather than forcing these issues into continuous litigation. The NCAA and conference defendants unanimously agree to appeal the District Court’s decision.”

The permanent injunction followed a lawsuit filed in 2014 against the NCAA by a group of plaintiffs led by former West Virginia running back Shawne Alston. Athletes on scholarship have traditionally only been allowed to receive money for the cost of attending college. The injunction would allow schools to give athletes money for other education-related items and services, such as internships, postgraduate scholarships, academic achievements, supplies, tutoring and studying abroad.

“The decision allows unlimited payments to student-athletes, so long as payments like uncapped internships can somehow be described as `related to education,’ ” the NCAA’s petition said, according to USA Today. “By permitting such payments for student-athletes’ play, the decision will transform student-athletes into professionals, eliminating the procompetitive distinction between college and professional sports. Consumers will likely come to view NCAA athletics as just another form of minor-league sports.

“As other courts have recognized, that is improper. Antitrust litigation should not replace the ability of the NCAA to make the critical judgments about the sports league that they created and administer.”

The NCAA wants to maintain hold on decisions regarding education-related payments and amateur.

“The decision below deprives the NCAA of the leeway that sports-governing bodies and joint ventures ordinarily have under antitrust law, leeway that this Court and others have recognized the NCAA needs to administer inter-collegiate athletics,” the petition said, according to Front Office Sports.

The NCAA has asked for more clarification under the injunction, such as a maximum amount of compensation that a student-athlete can receive during an academic year.

“We do not believe it likely that the Supreme Court will take this case, as it does not raise any new legal issues or circuit split for the Court to consider,” Jeffrey Kessler, an attorney for the plaintiff in the Alston case, told Front Office Sports. “In fact, the petition identifies the exact same legal issues previously raised by the NCAA with respect to the prior O’Bannon litigation that the NCAA lost, and the Supreme Court declined to review those issues at that time.” 

The petition comes the same week the NCAA proposed new name, image and likeness rules.

Related content: NCAA Proposes New Transfer, NIL Rules

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