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Legal showdown looms over the NCAA’s ban on paying athletes

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Chicago Tribune – Fresh off a ruling that Northwestern University football players can’t form a union, the NCAA is about to face a more direct challenge to its longstanding policy of not letting schools pay athletes like they’re professionals.

A federal judge who issued a landmark decision against the NCAA last year is considering whether to grant class-action status to lawsuits by current and former college athletes seeking to abolish the NCAA’s prohibition against competitively paying players. Taken together, the cases carry billion-dollar implications and hinge, essentially, on whether the concepts of amateur athleticism and economic competition can co-exist.

The NCAA says its model sets a level playing field among schools and their teams. But its business model requires collusion, and critics have long decried it for hampering the competition normally considered healthy in a free market.

“These are just educational institutions who have decided to go into a business,” said Jeffrey Kessler, an attorney representing former Clemson football player Martin Jenkins and two others. He has also represented labor unions for professional athletes. “That’s perfectly lawful, but you don’t get to conspire not to pay your workers anything in that business.”    Read More