Labor Attorney Challenges NCAA Stance on Amateurism

NCAA Compensation State of Affairs

AmateurIn the current climate, the compensation of college athletes is capped at an academic scholarship, which changes in value based on the school. No matter how famous – i.e. Johnny Manziel – any athlete who receives payment outside of a scholarship could be ruled ineligible at anytime and lose his or her amateur status.

Prominent Sports Labor Attorney, Jeffrey Kessler, hopes to change this rule, as he recently filed an anti-trust¬†lawsuit against the NCAA and its five largest conferences – the SEC, Big Ten, Pacific 12, Atlantic Coast and Big 12 – looking to end NCAA “amateurism,” according to ESPN.

“The main objective is to strike down permanently the restrictions that prevent athletes in Division I basketball and the top tier of college football from being fairly compensated for the billions of dollars in revenues that they help generate,” Kessler told ESPN. “In no other business – and college sports is a big business – would it ever be suggested that the people who are providing the essential services work for free. Only in big-time college sports is that line drawn.”

Amateurism Rules

Kessler said he believes that current amateurism rules are unfair. Those rules are as follows:

  • Athletes can’t take pay or the promise of pay for competing in a sport
  • Athletes can’t agree to compete in professional athletics
  • Athletes can’t play professionally on an athletics team
  • Athletes can’t use skill for pay in any form

As a sports lawyer with significant experience in this area, and as a parent of two successful NCAA student athletes, I can assure all that there is a very strong argument against compensating college athletes in big time sports.

If successful, Kessler could change the NCAA as we know it. The next Johnny Manziel won’t have to worry about being punished for signing autographs and the next Reggie Bush won’t have to give back his Heisman Trophy because he accepted gifts and money while in school.

There is no telling if Kessler’s lawsuit will be successful but it will be interesting to see if any changes come as a result.¬† At the very least, this may provide a means to updating the NCAA regulations and operating procedures, which has come under fire previously.

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Anthony R. Caruso is a business transactional attorney in New York and New Jersey with experience in structuring, negotiation and completion of legal deals involving business, entrepreneurs, athletes and performers.

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