The U.S. Supreme Court has denied requests by both parties to review last year’s federal appeals court decision in O’Bannon v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), a case involving federal antitrust laws and restrictions on the compensation of intercollegiate athletes.
The justices on Monday rejected the NCAA’s petition for review in the class-action lawsuit originally filed by Ed O'Bannon, a former UCLA basketball player, and other athletes alleging that the NCAA and other groups profited from student-athlete likenesses on television, in video games and on merchandise while athletes were prohibited from receiving payment. The Supreme Court also rejected O'Bannon's request for review of aspects of the decision.
The NCAA maintains that its rules banning compensation for student-athletes’ likenesses are the same as the prohibition on being paid to play, and therefore are permissible under the court’s amateurism precedent set in the 1983 case, NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma.
“While we are disappointed with this decision not to review this case, we remain pleased that the Ninth Circuit agreed with us that amateurism is an essential component of college sports and that NCAA members should not be forced by the courts to provide benefits untethered to education, including providing any payments beyond the full cost of attendance,” said Donald Remy, NCAA’s chief legal officer, in a statement Monday.
The ruling on appeal was issued by the Ninth Circuit in September 2015, which issued a split decision that a federal district court’s injunction allowing schools to pay athletes as much as $5,000 a year beyond the full cost of attendance was “erroneous,” but also that giving student-athletes scholarships up to the full cost of attendance is permissible. ACE filed an amicus brief on the case in November 2014.
As ACE President Molly Corbett Broad noted in a statement on the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, student-athletes are first and foremost students, and transforming them into paid professionals would harm the quality of their overall educational experience.
The court’s decision effectively ends legal action in this case, although it does not mean the end to the overarching issue of student-athlete compensation. There are several ongoing cases—including Jenkins v. NCAA—that also address the matter, which ACE will continue to monitor.