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Justice Delayed or Justice Denied?

Posted in Mixed Bag of Nuts

Many college sports aficionados are likely aware of the long-raging debate about whether college athletes in high revenue sports, like football and basketball, ought to be paid for their services. After all, college sports have become big business where top schools are routinely able to generate revenues exceeding $100 million dollars.  (See Business Insider Article here).  Those of us with an inherent and nagging sense of fairness and justice have felt that the athletes contributing to such riches should receive something for their efforts aside from a “free” education.  (For the brilliant John Oliver takedown of the NCAA position, see here.)  No doubt the free education is valuable, but it is a relative pittance to dollars we’re talking about here.

With this background, many of us were heartened to read the August 8, 2014 opinion by the United State District Court for the Northern District of California which required the NCAA to allow schools to pay athletes modest sums for their contributions on the athletic fields/floors.  The trial judge originally ordered that her ruling would be effective pending an appeal.  Unfortunately, on July 31, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit stayed the district judge’s ruling pending the decision on appeal.  This means that we will continue at least a little longer on the “no pay for athletes” model.

The Court heard oral argument on March 17, 2015 and is presumably working on a decision about whether it will affirm the district court’s ruling.  However, the Ninth Circuit’s most recent order is not a positive sign.  Although the order said that it was being entered “without expressing a view as to either party’s likelihood of success on the merits,” it seems unlikely that the appellate court would have entered this stay unless it was planning on reversing the district court decision.  We should soon know whether this case, which has been ongoing since 2009, was all in vain.