Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Student-Athlete Compensation

Wednesday, June 23, 2021


National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston 

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday delivered a blow to the NCAA as the justices sided with former college athletes in a dispute over compensation. While the unanimous ruling was limited to education-related benefits, like postgraduate scholarships and paying for computers or tutoring, it could add to the momentum for greater compensation for college athletes. Many see the NCAA compensation rules as unfair, as they allow universities to profit off the athletic talents of students while denying those students compensation. As athletes continue to fight for greater compensation privileges, this marks a great step forward. Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions below. To view the full video and transcript, click here



Terms and Definitions

  • Antitrust laws: statutes developed by governments to protect consumers from predatory business practices and ensure fair competition
  • Collective bargaining: negotiation of wages and other conditions of employment by an organized body of employees
  • Fair Labor Standards Act: a United States labor law that creates the right to a minimum wage, and “time-and-a-half” overtime pay when people work over forty hours a week
  • National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)The National Collegiate Athletic Association is a nonprofit organization that regulates student-athletes from up to 1,268 North American institutions and conferences
  • NIL: name, image and likeness
  • National Labor Relations Act of 1935: a foundational statute of United States labor law that guarantees the right of private-sector employees to organize into trade unions, engage in collective bargaining and take collective action such as strikes.

Discussion Questions

  • Who is fighting against the NCAA?
  • Why are they filing lawsuits against the NCAA? Why does the NCAA not want to grant what they are asking for? 
  • What are some ways student-athletes have tried to sue for greater compensation? 
  • Where is legislation being developed to allow student-athletes to profit from their fame? 
  • When are the five state laws going into effect that allow student-athletes to profit from their fame? 
  • How has college athletics changed over time in general?

Focus Questions

  1. What are some of the responsibilities of college student-athletes? What are some arguments as to why student-athletes could be considered employees, and what are the NCAA’s arguments that they should not?
  2. What might be some of the effects of deeming student-athletes as employees?

Media Literacy: This story takes into the perspective of two experts on this topic (one on sports law and one on the Supreme Court), what perspectives might be missing in this piece? Can you think of other people to interview that might help your understanding of this issue?

Dig Deeper

  • Those interested in the future of the NCAA and student-athlete compensation may want to read Justice Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion (starting on page 41 of the ruling). Though this is the concurring opinion of a single justice, it does outline meaningful legal challenges to the NCAA system that may appear again in future Supreme Court decisions.
  • To learn more about the ongoing issue of the NCAA and student-athlete compensation, see these other PBS NewsHour pieces:




To see the full NCAA Division I manual for student-athletes which outlines the rules around compensation, click here.


Republished with permission from PBS NewsHour Extra.