In April, Mark Emmert, the N.C.A.A. president, said he was looking for “clarity about what the law is, clarity about who has responsibility for what, clarity about how these issues will be decided, whether through congressional processes, through legal processes or through N.C.A.A. decision-making processes.”
In Monday’s decision, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, writing for the court, took a measured approach, saying his task was merely to assess a limited injunction entered by a trial judge, one that allowed payments for things like musical instruments, scientific equipment, postgraduate scholarships, tutoring, study abroad, academic awards and internships. It did not permit the outright payment of salaries.
“Some will think the district court did not go far enough,” Justice Gorsuch wrote. “By permitting colleges and universities to offer enhanced education-related benefits, its decision may encourage scholastic achievement and allow student-athletes a measure of compensation more consistent with the value they bring to their schools. Still, some will see this as a poor substitute for fuller relief.”
“At the same time, others will think the district court went too far by undervaluing the social benefits associated with amateur athletics,” he added.
Justice Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion was bolder.
“The N.C.A.A. couches its arguments for not paying student athletes in innocuous labels,” he wrote. “But the labels cannot disguise the reality: The NCAA’s business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America.”
“All of the restaurants in a region cannot come together to cut cooks’ wages on the theory that ‘customers prefer’ to eat food from low-paid cooks,” he wrote. “Law firms cannot conspire to cabin lawyers’ salaries in the name of providing legal services out of a ‘love of the law.’”
“Price-fixing labor is price-fixing labor,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote. “And price-fixing labor is ordinarily a textbook antitrust problem because it extinguishes the free market in which individuals can otherwise obtain fair compensation for their work.”
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