Creighton University expert on Sports Law, David P. Weber, notes the Supreme Court strenuously pressed the NCAA on its definition and interpretation of “amateurism” during oral arguments on Mar. 31, 2021 in one of the most impactful cases facing the NCAA in over the last three and a half decades.
The NCAA has long argued for a line of demarcation between amateur and professional athletes, and has argued that distinction is what creates its unique product and value. Recently, however, public opinion has shifted sharply as the dollars involved have increased and the public perception has been that this increase has largely been brought by individuals who are prohibited from receiving pay by the NCAA when the NCAA itself and its member institutions appear to profit handsomely. Although the case is narrower than a true pay-for-play paradigm as it would still limit athlete compensation to educationally-related expenses, a win by the athletes would see further erosion of the line between amateurs and professionals and make more difficult the NCAA’s position that the public and the market perceives amateurism as necessary for its products’ success.
Author of “Athletes in Transit: Why the Game is Different in Sports and the Visas should be too” forthcoming Tulane Law Review (2022).