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Supreme Court votes 9-0 against NCAA in benefits battle with college players

The high court in a 9-0 vote sided with student-athletes by saying the NCAA operates a system that restrains competition and violates federal antitrust laws. File Photo by Gary C. Caskey/UPI
The high court in a 9-0 vote sided with student-athletes by saying the NCAA operates a system that restrains competition and violates federal antitrust laws. File Photo by Gary C. Caskey/UPI | License Photo

June 21 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday unanimously issued a ruling that struck down part of the NCAA's rules on amateurism, opening the door for student-athletes to receive broader education-related benefits.

The high court in a 9-0 vote sided with student-athletes by saying the NCAA operates a system that restrains competition and violates federal antitrust laws.

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Monday's ruling will allow student-athletes to accept educational-related benefits like paid internships and laptops, which have been banned by the NCAA

The collegiate governing body argues that its rules are needed to distinguish college athletics from professional sports and preserve amateurism.

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Writing the unanimous opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch said that colleges have always had a "complicated relationship with sports and money," and a lower court ruling that also sided with student-athletes correctly applied antitrust principles.

"Put simply, this suit involves admitted horizontal price-fixing in a market where the defendants exercise monopoly control," Gorsuch wrote.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh was even more straightforward, saying the NCAA model would be essentially "flatly illegal" in any other business setting.

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"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.

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"Law firms cannot conspire to cabin lawyers' salaries in the name of providing legal services out of a 'love of the law.' Hospitals cannot agree to cap nurses' income in order to create a 'purer' form of helping the sick."

The court, however, declined to rule whether student-athletes can be paid salaries or receive other compensation. The NCAA is presently weighing whether students can be compensated for the use of their names and likeness, such as in video games.

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Andrew Brandt, executive director of the Moorad Center for the Study of Sports Law at Villanova University, said that Monday's ruling won't directly lead to college athletes being paid -- but it pushes the NCAA to provide significantly more to college players than it's done previously.

"The NCAA is being increasingly surrounded by legislation and litigation chipping away at its long-held traditions about amateurism," Brandt said in a tweet.

"This case will not end the model but it will be an inflection point for more loosening of the NCAA's grip."

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court

Members of the U.S. Supreme Court pose for a group photo at the court in Washington, D.C., on Friday. Seated, from left to right, are Associate Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Standing, from left to right, are Associate Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett. Pool Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI | License Photo

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