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Supreme Court of the United States
March 31, 2021, Argued; June 21, 2021, Decided1
Nos. 20-512 and 20-520.
Justice Gorsuch delivered the opinion of the Court.
In the Sherman Act, Congress tasked courts with enforcing a policy of competition on the belief that market forces “yield the best allocation” of the Nation’s resources. National Collegiate Athletic Assn. v. Board of Regents of Univ. of Okla., 468 U. S. 85, 104, n. 27, 104 S. Ct. 2948, 82 L. Ed. 2d 70 (1984). The plaintiffs before us brought this lawsuit alleging that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and certain of its member institutions violated this policy by agreeing to restrict the compensation colleges and universities may offer the student-athletes who play for their teams. After amassing a vast record and conducting an exhaustive trial, the district court issued a 50-page opinion [*8] that cut both ways. The court refused to disturb the NCAA’s rules limiting undergraduate athletic scholarships and other compensation related to athletic performance. At the same time, the court struck down NCAA rules limiting the education-related benefits schools may offer student-athletes—such as rules that prohibit schools from offering graduate or vocational school scholarships. Before us, the student-athletes do not challenge the district court’s judgment. But the NCAA does. In essence, it seeks immunity from the normal operation of the antitrust laws and argues, in any event, that the district court should have approved all of its existing restraints. We took this case to consider those objections.
From the start, American colleges and universities have had a complicated relationship with sports and money. In 1852, students from Harvard and Yale participated in what many regard as the Nation’s first intercollegiate competition—a boat race at Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. But this was no pickup match. A railroad executive sponsored the event to promote train travel to the picturesque lake. T. Mendenhall, The Harvard-Yale Boat Race 1852-1924, pp. 15-16 (1993). He offered [*9] the competitors an all-expenses-paid vacation with lavish prizes—along with unlimited alcohol. See A. Zimbalist, Unpaid Professionals 6-7 (1999) (Zimbalist); Rushin, Inside the Moat, Sports Illustrated, Mar. 3, 1997. The event filled the resort with “life and excitement,” N. Y. Herald, Aug. 10, 1852, p. 2, col. 2, and one student-athlete described the “‘junket’” as an experience “‘as unique and irreproducible as the Rhodian colossus,’” Mendenhall, Harvard-Yale Boat Race, at 20.
Life might be no “less than a boat race,” Holmes, On Receiving the Degree of Doctor of Laws, Yale University Commencement, June 30, 1886, in Speeches by Oliver Wendall Holmes, p. 27 (1918), but it was football that really caused college sports to take off. “By the late 1880s the traditional rivalry between Princeton and Yale was attracting 40,000 spectators and generating in excess of $25,000 . . . in gate revenues.” Zimbalist 7. Schools regularly had “graduate students and paid ringers” on their teams. Ibid.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
2021 U.S. LEXIS 3123 *
NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION, PETITIONER v. SHAWNE ALSTON, ET AL.; AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE, ET AL., PETITIONERS v. SHAWNE ALSTON, ET AL.
Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.
Prior History: [*1] ON WRITS OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
Alston v. NCAA (In re NCAA Ath. Grant-In-Aid Cap Antitrust Litig.), 958 F.3d 1239, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 15789, 2020 WL 2519475 (9th Cir. Cal., May 18, 2020)
Disposition: 958 F. 3d 1239, affirmed.
student-athletes, athletic, district court, benefits, schools, sports, procompetitive, restrictions, student athlete, antitrust, football, limits, conferences, consumer demand, anti trust law, consumer, awards, education-related, rule of reason, amateurism, injunction, Sherman Act, anticompetitive, courts, questions, league, achievement, basketball, salaries, internships
Antitrust & Trade Law, Price Fixing & Restraints of Trade, Per Se Rule & Rule of Reason, Sherman Act, Per Se Rule Tests, Manifestly Anticompetitive Effects, Per Se Violations, Regulated Practices, Private Actions, Sherman Act, Scope, Exemptions, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Allocation, Tying Arrangements, Sherman Act Violations, Burden Shifting, Claims, Scope, Civil Procedure, Judgments, Relief From Judgments, Altering & Amending Judgments, Remedies, Governments, Courts, Authority to Adjudicate