Division I student athletes looked poised for victory in their Supreme Court battle against the National Collegiate Athletic Association over whether the organization may impose restraints on education-related benefits schools may offer.
During 90 minutes of arguments held by phone Wednesday, the justices appeared skeptical of the claim made by the NCAA that payments to students for things like musical instruments and internships will sour fans who are drawn to the amateur quality of its competitions.
The case is the latest legal challenge over the NCAA’s compensation policies and comes amid a high-profile and related push by student athletes seeking to profit off their own names, images and likenesses. The NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament will hold its championships for women and men on Sunday and Monday.
Justices appointed by both Republicans and Democrats seemed persuaded by arguments made by the attorney for the student athletes, Jeffrey Kessler, that the NCAA was violating federal antitrust law with its restrictions on education-related payments.
A federal district court struck down those restrictions and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision.
“These are competitors all getting together with total market power fixing prices,” Justice Elena Kagan told Seth Waxman, the NCAA’s attorney and a former U.S. solicitor general.
Elizabeth Prelogar, the acting solicitor general, argued in favor of the student athletes.
The case is Shawne Alston v. NCAA, No. 20-512.
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