WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Supreme Court let stand a lower court opinion that said that the NCAA ‘s so called “amateur rules” that required that college students not be paid — violate anti-trust laws.
The opinion by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said the NCAA could not limit schools from giving full scholarships including costs of attendance to students. The court ruled, however, that the schools did not have to hold deferred funds in a trust for athletes to cover up to $5,000 a year for name, image and likeness rights.
Current and former players including Ed O’Bannon challenged the NCAA, arguing in court papers that “college athletics is indisputably big business” but that some some athletes “cannot receive any payments, whatsoever, by fiat.”
But lawyers for the NCAA argue that the rules are “essential” for the association’s “distinct product” that ensures that college athletics are distinguished from professional sports.
The challenges won a partial victory below when a lower court held that the NCAA could be subject to anti trust laws and could not limit schools from giving full scholarships including cost of attendance” to students. The court ruled, however, that the schools did not have to hold deferred funds in a trust for athletes to cover up to $5,000 a year. Critics of the ruling worry that while the remedy in the case at hand was relatively limited it could open the door for future cases down the road.
On Monday, Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer said he was “disappointed” that the court declined to step in to “clarify key issues of law affecting the NCAA and other similar organizations.”
“We continue to believe, and many other appellate courts have agreed, that the NCAA membership agreements to advance college sports are not violations of the antitrust laws,” he said in a statement and added that the Court’s decision not to hear the case ” will not deter our members from continuing to provide students with academic opportunities, safeguarding their health and well-being and creating fair policies centered on the student-athlete experience.”
“I was an athlete masquerading as a student,” O’Bannon, who spent two seasons in the National Basketball Association, told the court.
O’Bannon pursued the lawsuit after seeing himself depicted in a college basketball video game produced by Electronic Arts Inc, which he also sued but is no longer involved in the case.
The appeals court said athletes have a right of publicity in video games, but it declined to decide whether they also have such rights in live TV broadcasts or archival footage.
The players, led by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon, asked the high court to reinstate the $5,000 payments. Their lawyers said that the NCAA rules restrict competition and that the appeals court was wrong to treat them as having any beneficial impact.
“The NCAA’s untenable position is that it may prohibit its members from competing on price for the talents and services of the young athletes who make this billion-dollar enterprise possible,” the players argued.
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