Harve Linder: NCAA Claims that Decision which U.S. Supreme Court has Agreed to Review Blurs the Line Between Student and Professional Athletes


Harve Linder from our Employment & Labor team at Culhane Meadows PLLC provides an update on a decision made by a lower court regarding education-related compensation and benefits for student-athletes that is to undergo review by the United States Supreme Court.


Today, December 16, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review a lower court decision that the NCAA says blurred “the line between student-athletes and professionals”.

Originally, a lower court barred the NCAA from capping education-related compensation and benefits for student-athletes in Division I football and basketball programs.  The Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case comes after a three-judge Panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in May.  The Panel had upheld a lower court ruling brought by former West Virginia University football player Shawne Alston and others.

The NCAA complained that the lower court’s ruling “effectively created a pay-for-play system for all student-athletes, allowing them to be paid both ‘unlimited’ amounts for participating in ‘internships’” and an additional $5,600 or more each year they remain eligible to play their sport.

The NCAA wanted the court to stay the case while it made its own internal rule changes. Currently, the NCAA is in the process of changing its rules to permit athletes to be compensated for the use of their names, images, and likenesses.  The NCAA argues that this change should open opportunities for athletes to be paid for endorsement and sponsorship deals, as well as for appearances and for the promoting of products or events on social media accounts.

The case will be argued in 2021 with a decision expected before the end of June.

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