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NCAA Case: Supreme Court justices skeptical of amateurism

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Supreme Court justices expressed their skepticism towards NCAA’s arguments that by opposing greater compensation for athletes, it aims at protecting the integrity of amateur college athletics. Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned, “How do we know that we’re just not destroying the game as it exists?”

The NCAA is contending a lower-court ruling that aims at allowing colleges to offer better academic perks to Division I football and basketball (men and women) players in the case of NCAA v Alston. These benefits include scholarships for graduate degrees, paid postgraduate internships and computers, etc.

However, in the hearing held by video conferencing, justices grilled NCAA’s lawyer and criticized that organization invokes its defence of amateurism solely to increase profits while reducing its labour costs. Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh maintained, “The antitrust laws should not be a cover for exploitation of the student athletes”.

Lawyers and the Justice Department’s aim of drawing a distinction between increasing educational benefits and simply compensating the athletes increased justices’ concern that judiciary’s role increases in defining what protects amateurism and what compromises it. Justice Amy Coney Barrett maintained that the decision seemed limited and differential to the organisation.

The suit was filed by former West Virginia running back Shawne Alston and former University of California centre Justine Hartman. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken agreed with organisation’s concept of direct pay and enhanced education benefits.
Washington lawyer Seth P. Waxman argued against the decision of U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and stated that is establishes ‘a regime that permits athletes to be paid thousands of dollars each year just for playing on a team and unlimited cash for post- eligibility internships.’

Jeffrey L. Kessler, representing the players, maintained, “just the latest iteration of the repeatedly debunked claims that competition will destroy consumer demand for college sports and that the NCAA should have a judicially created antitrust exemption because of an imaginary revered tradition that they argue for”.

Elizabeth B. Prelogar, President’s acting solicitor general explained that the lower court’s decision was careful as it permitted only payments related to education.