NCAA Restrictions on Athlete Pay is Upheld

On Wednesday, a Federal Court of Appeals upheld NCAA restrictions preventing college athletes from getting paid. A lower court’s call to allow basketball and football players to be paid upwards of $5,000 a year in deferred compensation was also rejected by the Federal Court.

The decision comes in a court case filed by Ed O’Bannon, a former UCLA basketball player who sued to allow athletes compensation from profits that colleges, conferences, and the NCAA make from college sports. His lawyers contend that such restrictions were in violation of the nation’s antitrust laws.

O’Bannon said that his decision to sue came about when he watched himself in a video game. He said that seeing his likeness and name in a video game made him wonder why it was okay that his image could be used years out of college so that someone else can make money.

Image credit: The Sport Digest
Image credit: The Sport Digest

The college basketball and football programs at top-tier athletic powerhouses are enormously profitable. At division 1 schools, those two major sports reaped in a combined profit of $1.7 billion during the 2013-2014 school year. And those profits continually soar with new broadcast deals and guaranteed money makers like March Madness and college football playoffs, which achieved the highest ratings in cable history.

The court did rule that the NCAA is subject to United States antitrust laws—a setback for the organization. However, the association also had a big victory, since the court found that colleges are not required to pay its athletes another $5,000. Mark Emmert, the NCAA President, said the organization was pleased by the decision.

The decision is the second setback for supporters fighting for the improvement of conditions for college athletes. In August, the National Labor Relations Board rejected an attempt by Northwestern University football players to assemble the first union for collegiate athletes.

For a long time now, the NCAA has allowed colleges to provide scholarships to athletes. Earlier this year, it began to allow additional cash payments to athletes from the colleges to supplement scholarships and the actual cost of attendance. Such stipends could cover expenses such as cost of living and student fees.

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