Pay for Play

Source: Elaine McArdle, Harvard Law Bulletin, May 15, 2014

Suddenly, the N.C.A.A. is forced to play defense in more than one court.

What do you call it when an organization makes more than a billion dollars in a single month using unpaid labor? Some call it exploitation; others, opportunity—but most of the nation calls it March Madness….But now a series of major legal efforts—including a number of lawsuits and an effort to unionize college players—may forever change the face of college sports. ….The week that March Madness began this year, high-profile sports attorney Jeffrey Kessler filed a federal lawsuit against the N.C.A.A. and the five largest college conferences on behalf of a group of college football and basketball players, claiming that capping their compensation at the value of a scholarship violates antitrust laws. In essence, the suit seeks to allow student-athletes to be paid. Another suit had been filed just a few weeks earlier by a former college football player, seeking full compensation for the cost of attending college, since athletic scholarships don’t cover all expenses….Then, in late March, in a seismic decision, a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that football players at Northwestern University are employees with the right to unionize….Unlike professional football and basketball players, college players receive no compensation, medical care or pension if they are injured. Getting hurt can mean getting tossed. …