Hausfeld welcomes historic US Supreme Court victory for college athletes
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court today ruled (in Alston v. NCAA) that the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s restrictions on compensation to college athletes in conjunction with educational expenses amount to an illegal price-fixing agreement in violation of the antitrust laws—subject to the rule of reason like any other commercial restraint with procompetitive potential. In upholding the Ninth Circuit’s ruling on this important issue, the Supreme Court rejected “a[ny] sort of judicially ordained immunity from the terms of the Sherman Act for [the NCAA’s] restraints of trade,” just because, “they happen to fall at the intersection of higher education, sports, and money.”
This historic decision is the culmination of 12 years of litigation first initiated by Hausfeld and college basketball luminary Ed O’Bannon in the 2009 O’Bannon v. NCAA case. In O’Bannon, Hausfeld and its clients sought to hold the NCAA and member schools liable for their agreement to prohibit college athletes from earning any compensation for their name, image, and likeness rights. There, for the first time, the federal trial and appellate courts concluded that the NCAA was subject to antitrust scrutiny for its actions and, following a landmark trial victory, the trial court awarded broad injunctive relief (affirmed on appeal) allowing college athletes to start receiving payments in the form of expanded scholarships and stipends. Subsequent litigation sought to expand those payments, and the Supreme Court’s decision today confirms that the NCAA’s restrictions on college-athlete earnings are not reasonably tethered to preserving college sports, and instead constitute “admitted horizontal price fixing in a market where defendants exercise monopoly control.”
We are overjoyed by this victory for college athletes, who—as the Supreme Court recognizes—deserve to be treated fairly by the institutions earning billions of dollars from their labor. We hope that today’s decision sparks long-overdue action within the NCAA and creates new opportunities for college athletes to receive fair compensation for their contributions.
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