Supreme Court Issues Highly Anticipated Decision in NCAA Antitrust Suit

By Marcel S. Pratt, Stephen J. Kastenberg, and Elizabeth Wingfield
July 6, 2021

On June 21, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in favor of student-athletes in the highly anticipated antitrust suit, NCAA v. Alston,, No. 20-512 (June 21, 2021). The Court unanimously ruled that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules restricting student-athletes’ educational benefits are not entitled to deference under the antitrust laws and are subject to antitrust scrutiny under a “rule-of-reason” analysis. The Court upheld the trial court injunction against NCAA rules limiting the education-related benefits schools may offer student-athletes—such as rules that prohibit schools from offering graduate or vocational school scholarships. Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s concurrence cautioned that while the decision only considered NCAA restrictions on educational benefits, under its reasoning there are “serious questions” regarding whether the NCAA’s remaining restrictions on non-educational compensation are permissible under antitrust laws. Perhaps in an effort to avoid litigation utilizing the reasoning in NCAA v. Alston and following a wave of state statutes that disallow NCAA’s bar on student-athlete compensation, on June 30 the NCAA issued an interim policy permitting student-athletes to be paid for the use of their name, image, and likeness.

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