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An Amateurism Challenge Evaporates, but Others Loom for NCAA

Article by Jake New on Inside Higher Ed

The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the O’Bannon case protects college sports’ amateurism model for now, but earlier ruling that the association violates antitrust laws leaves the model vulnerable.

Leaving the issue of paying college athletes in a state of limbo, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the Ed O’Bannon antitrust case against the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The Supreme Court’s decision, which it offered without explanation or comment, means the NCAA’s amateurism model survives, but in letting a lower court’s ruling stand, the court also left that model open to further scrutiny, setting the stage for two other antitrust lawsuits that both seek to allow compensation for athletes beyond athletic scholarships.

Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a district court opinion that NCAA rules limiting what college athletes can be paid violate antitrust laws. By declining to hear the O’Bannon case, the Supreme Court has ensured an opening for other antitrust lawsuits to argue that it is illegal for the NCAA to limit athletes’ compensation, provided they can persuade the courts that striking down amateurism would not fundamentally alter the demand for college sports.

“Future plaintiffs now have a road map to bring antitrust cases against the NCAA,” Marc Edelman, a law professor at the City University of New York’s Baruch College and expert on sports and antitrust law, said in an interview. “Future cases will be decided on the facts of the case and on whether the payment of athletes would or would not harm consumer demand. The legal burden has already been met.”

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