The NCAA’s Attempt to Defend Amateurism

March 22, 2016
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The NCAA’s Attempt to Defend Amateurism


In 2015, a court ruled that the National Collegiate Athletic Association is violating the Sherman Antitrust Act by failing to provide student-athletes with compensation when it uses their images to sell products, and the organization is making an attempt to maintain its concept of amateurism.

Court rules in favor of the plaintiff

Ed O’Bannon, a former UCLA basketball player, filed a lawsuit in 2009 alleging that the NCAA, as well as several other entities such as video game company Electronic Arts, was violating federal antitrust laws by neglecting to compensate athletes whose images were used to sell video games, jerseys and more. While many arguments have been raised about compensating student athletes for their performances on courts and fields, this lawsuit addresses something different. Essentially, it states that these athletes should receive outside income when their images are used to sell goods.

The 9th Circuit court agreed with the idea, somewhat. The most recent ruling on the case expressed concern that cash compensation for athletes could turn the NCAA into a minor league system. However, it did agree with the plaintiff that some sort of compensation should be awarded – in this case cost of attendance. The NCAA has received its fair share of criticism for its refusal to compensate athletes in the name of amateurism.

The federal law the defendants were accused of violating has been around since 1890, and was developed in an attempt to promote competitive trade, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The act is one of three central antitrust regulations, along with the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Clayton Act. 

College athletes await the NCAA’s appeal

The NCAA, meanwhile, believes that this sort of compensation violates the tenets of amateurism upon which the organization’s student athlete system is based. The NCAA filed for an extension to appeal the 9th Circuit ruling that the organization’s failure to compensate student athletes constitutes a violation of federal antitrust laws. The proposed appeal is an attempt to save the concept of amateurism as the NCAA maintains it. 

“The NCAA has requested a 30-day extension to file a petition for review of the O’Bannon case with the United States Supreme Court,” Donald Remy, the NCAA’s chief legal officer, explained in a statement. “During this time, we will continue to assess our legal options, including preparing for the possibility that plaintiffs will seek further review. We continue to maintain that the NCAA operates well within antitrust laws, but we also agree with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ recognition that benefits to student-athletes should be tethered to higher education.”

Now the future of amateurism depends on what sort of argument the NCAA can compose for its appeal. The organization will attempt to defend its concept of amateurism and explain that it does not violate federal antitrust laws.

If you have questions about student athlete compensation or the NCAA, speak with an experienced sports law attorney for more information. 

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