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Supreme Court takes up NCAA antitrust dispute over compensation for college athletes

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Washington — The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to take up a dispute between the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and a group of collegiate athletes who argue the group’s rules restricting education-related compensation violated federal antitrust law.

The court said it would consider the appeal by the NCAA, a body composed of more than 1,200 schools and conferences that sets the rules for college athletics, of a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court Appeals that found limits on benefits to college basketball and football players related to their education restricted competition under federal law. The case was consolidated with a similar dispute brought by the major athletic conferences, including the Power 5: Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference, PAC-12 and Southeastern Conference. 

A group of football and men’s and women’s basketball players filed the lawsuit against the NCAA and the largest athletic conferences challenging the rules restricting student-athlete compensation. The collegiate athletes argued the rules on education-related benefits were unlawful and contended that without the limits, they would be compensated at a level more commensurate with their value to their universities, conferences and the NCAA.

A federal district court ruled in favor of the athletes, finding the NCAA limits on education-related benefits were anticompetitive under federal antitrust law. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision.

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Donald Remy, the NCAA’s chief legal officer, said it is “pleased” the court agreed to hear the case.

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“The NCAA and its members continue to believe that college campuses should be able to improve the student-athlete experience without facing never-ending litigation regarding these changes,” he said in a statement.

The NCAA has long held that student-athletes, as amateurs, must not be paid to play, but allows schools to reimburse collegiate athletes for academic and athletic expenses.

The justices will likely hear arguments in the spring of 2021, and a decision is expected by the end of June.

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