The New York Times

Washington, June 21, 2021: The Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Monday that the N.C.A.A. could not bar relatively modest payments to student-athletes, a decision that underscored the growing challenges to a college sports system that generates huge sums for schools but provides little or no compensation to the players.

The decision concerned only payments and other benefits related to education. But its logic suggested that the court may be open to a head-on challenge to the ban by the National Collegiate Athletic Association on paying athletes for their participation in sports that bring billions of dollars in revenue to American colleges and universities.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh seemed to invite such a challenge.

“Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote. “And under ordinary principles of antitrust law, it is not evident why college sports should be any different. The N.C.A.A. is not above the law.”

Throughout its 115-year history, the N.C.A.A. has largely defended the principle that students should play sports as amateurs. Even top athletes in high-profile sports like football and basketball are limited to receiving no more than a scholarship, books, room and board and, more recently, other costs of attending college, a figure that can include travel and other living expenses. The organization sets the rules for roughly half a million college athletes in the United States.

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