Cali’s push to get student-athletes paid gets big helpers from SCOTUS, NCAA
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) represents the athletic programs of more than 1,260 academic institutions, 102 athletic conferences and more than 480,000 student athletes who have not been allowed, until recently, to make a dime of their abilities. athletes or the marketing of their names, images or likenesses.
But last week, the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) unanimously ruled that NCAA policy must comply with the country’s antitrust laws and that the organization does not have the power to deny students -athletes the right to receive compensation for their athleticism. or glory.
“I am excited about this decision. It’s long overdue and I’m glad California played a small role in shifting this tide, this marker, ”said Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Gardena), who along with Senator Nancy Skinner (D -Berkeley) introduced Senate Bill (SB) 206 or the Fair Pay to Play Act in California.
SB 206, which Gov. Newsom promulgated in 2019 – and is slated to take effect Jan. 1, 2023 – paved the way for Golden State athletes to cash in clothing endorsements, autograph signing, jersey licenses , social networks, media trading, ticket sales or other for-profit businesses.
Speaking at a Juneteenth celebration at the Secretary of State’s office in Sacramento, Bradford said, “This is really what we were talking about here today. University athletics is an extension of the movable property system. These athletes are people of color – African American men and women – who have never been fully paid. “
About a week after the landmark Supreme Court ruling, the NCAA, based on recommendations from the organization’s Division 1 board of directors, announced it would lift restrictions on student income and allow students to benefit from their athleticism and fame.
The organization’s move came a day before laws lifting the NCAA ban in eight states – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio and Texas – came into effect on July 1. .
According to the NCAA, the temporary action would remain in place until federal law or new NCAA rules are passed.
After the NCAA ruling, Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and senior class-action co-counsel, Keller v. Electronic Arts Inc., which has helped change the playing field on the issue of student athlete compensation, shared his thoughts.
Berman told California Black Media: “This set of rules maintains that the fate of college sports is not in serious jeopardy if the NCAA withdraws entirely from NIL (Name, Image and Likeness) pricing.”
“The NCAA recognizes what we have always known: that consumer demand is not tied to athlete income, and for many reasons college sports can have a future that is both fair and sustainable for athletes,” he continued.
In the Supreme Court case, National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston (# 20-512), US Judge Neil Gorsuch delivered an opinion in the 9-0 unanimous decision.
Gorsuch wrote: “Colleges and universities across the country have leveraged sports to generate income, gain attention, increase enrollment and raise funds from alumni. This profitable business relies on “amateur” student-athletes who compete under horizontal constraints that restrict how schools can pay them for their game. ”
The NCAA, he continued, “publishes and enforces these rules, which restrict the remuneration of student-athletes in various ways. These rules reduce the compensation of at least some student-athletes below what a competitive market would provide. “
The lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, Alston v. NCAA, is African American Shawne Alston, a former University of West Virginia (UVW) running back. Alston played for the Mountaineers from 2009 to 2012.
Alston’s landmark decision may have led to the biggest rewrite of NCAA rules in the organization’s 115-year history, but it was Ed O’Bannon who first filed a lawsuit against the NCAA, regarding compensation for former and current student-athletes.
O’Bannon, who won an NCAA men’s basketball title with the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1995, filed the federal class action lawsuit, O’Bannon v. NCAA 12 years ago. He and 19 other athletes sued the NCAA for violating federal antitrust laws.
National Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Oscar Robertson put his name on O’Bannon’s costume in 2011 when he learned that the NCAA was using his image in licensing deals with card companies to collect without knowing it.
The collectible card deal showed Robertson wearing his University of Cincinnati uniform, where he played for the Bearcats from 1957 to 1960. The NCAA has claimed it can use his image in perpetuity, Yahoo! Sports reported in January 2011.
“Today the Supreme Court said ‘no’ to the monopoly practices of the NCAA,” Skinner said of the NCAA ruling against Alston. “For too long, the NCAA has pocketed billions of the hard work and talent of student-athletes while limiting the support colleges can provide and denying athletes all this wealth.”
In 2009, Sam Keller, a former Arizona State University and University of Nebraska starting quarterback, filed a putative class action lawsuit (along with other former college football players) against Electronic Arts (EA), the digital interactive company, alleging that its use of its image in the NCAA Football video game series violated its right to publicity under California statutory and common law.
On July 31, 2013, the California Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that EA was not protected by First Amendment free speech by portraying the image of a college football player. The decision effectively ended the 17-year NCAA Football video streak.
Although the SCOTUS and NCAA decisions uphold California’s student athlete compensation law, the U.S. Congress has yet to create a national legal standard on the issue.
Bradford said he was taken aback by the ruling from a Conservative-majority Supreme Court bench.
“Yes, I was surprised that the decision was unanimous. This fact impressed me more than anything else, ”Bradford told California Black Media. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a conservative court, I think when the facts are so obvious Nick Saban (Alabama head coach) is paid $ 9 million a year and many varsity athletes have still hungry before going to sleep. “
Now, Bradford and Skinner are working to bring the legislation’s effective date forward with yet another bill the duo introduced in December 2020, SB 26.
“As the author of Fair Play To Play, SB 206, now SB 26, we’re going to bring that date forward,” Bradford said. “Just because you have a scholarship doesn’t mean it covers your living expenses,” he said. “(Student athletes) should be able to monetize their likeness like any other student and any other American under the First Amendment.”