The Dawn of a New Era: Antitrust Law vs. The Antiquated NCAA Compensation Model Perpetuating Racial Injustice

Amanda L. Jones | March 6, 2022

Two crises in 2020 fueled the fire underlying a debate that has been smoldering for years: whether student athletes should be compensated. The COVID-19 pandemic coincided with the Black Lives Matter movement and drew unprecedented attention to systemic racism permeating society, including college sports that rely disproportionately on Black men risking physical harm to support an entire industry. The Supreme Court’s decision in NCAA v. Alston opened the door for some athletic conferences to offer student athletes unlimited education-related benefits and called out the NCAA’s business model that relies on not paying student athletes under the justification of amateurism. Alston asserted that the NCAA amateurism model is not exempt from antitrust law, and a scathing concurrence by Justice Brett Kavanaugh said in no uncertain terms that “[t]he NCAA is not above the law.” In the context of the ever-evolving landscape of student-athlete compensation, this Note examines recent changes to the NCAA compensation model and suggests that antitrust law should be used as a vehicle to change the game by correcting racial inequities perpetuated by this business model. This Note asserts that the ball is now in Congress’s court and advocates for federal legislation and collective bargaining to empower student athletes to seek the full value of their labor.