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US Court Backs Payment to Student-Athletes in NCAA Case


FILE - West Virginia running back Shawne Alston plays in the NCAA football game between Pittsburgh and West Virginia, Nov. 26, 2010, in Pittsburgh. Alston and others sued and the NCAA over additional payments to athletes. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
US Court Backs Payment to Student-Athletes in NCAA Case
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The highest court in America ruled Monday that the college sports organization NCAA cannot limit education-related payments to its student-athletes.

The letters NCAA stand for National Collegiate Athletic Association. The organization sets the rules for and oversees college athletic competition in the United States.

The NCAA argued that its rules to limit the payments were necessary to support the idea of “amateurism” in college sports. However, in a 9-0 vote, the Supreme Court agreed with a group of former student-athletes that the NCAA rules cannot be enforced.

Under organization rules, students cannot be paid like professional players to play sports like football or basketball in college. The money given to athletes is limited to the cost of attending their schools.

Last December, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case brought by a group of former student-athletes. Shawne Alston, a former football player at West Virginia University, leads the group. The student-athletes said the NCAA’s rules on education-related costs were unfair. They argued that the rules violate federal antitrust law that is designed to support competition.

In this June 8, 2021 photo, the Supreme Court is seen in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
In this June 8, 2021 photo, the Supreme Court is seen in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)


What does the ruling mean?

The Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday upheld a lower court ruling barring the NCAA from enforcing their rules. Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court that the NCAA sought “immunity from the normal operation of the antitrust laws.” He said permitting colleges and universities to offer increased education-related payments could support improved academic performance. And, the opinion reads, it could provide student-athletes with payment “more consistent with the value they bring to their schools.”

The ruling does not mean that student-athletes will receive usual earnings like professional players. It only means that colleges can pay student-athletes for additional educational costs including tutoring expenses, study in foreign countries, or internships.

As a result of the ruling, the NCAA itself cannot bar colleges from raising their offers to basketball and football players with additional education-related costs. Before the court ruled, a lawyer for the former athletes said if the student-athletes won the case, “very many schools” would offer additional payment.

Changes are already happening

The NCAA had argued that a ruling for the student-athletes could lessen the difference between college and professional sports. However, changes are already happening with payments for college athletes.

In 2019, California became the first state to pass a law permitting college athletes to have agents and to make money from endorsement deals. The law protects athletes who sign such deals from dismissal by their team. The California law is set to take effect in 2023. Other states, including Alabama, Florida, and Texas, passed similar legislation that will go into effect this year.

The state laws have forced the NCAA to look at changing its rules to permit college athletes to make money from their “name, image and likeness.” The new NCAA rules, to be voted on this year, mean athletes can receive money for things like endorsements and personal appearances. For top college athletes, these amounts could be much higher than any education-related payments.

President Joe Biden's administration expressed its support for the athletes. And professional players associations of the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and the Women's National Basketball Association had all urged the court to side with the student-athletes.

I’m Caty Weaver.

Hai Do wrote this story for Learning English with additional reporting from The Associated Press. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

athlete - n. a person who is trained or good at sports

amateurism - n. the practice of playing sports unpaid rather than paid like a profession

academic - adj. of or relating to education

consistent - adj. always acting or behaving the same way

tutor - v. to teach a single student one on one

internship - n. a position for student or trainee to learn and gain work experience

endorsement - n. the act of publicly saying that you like or use something in exchange for money

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