The NCAA lost its Ninth Circuit appeal last week
The GIST: The NCAA took another L in its war against NIL last Thursday by losing its Ninth Circuit appeal to avoid paying out $4B in class action damages to eligible athletes, while the National Labor Relations Board resumes hearing a case today that could reclassify USC athletes as “professionals.” This is not amateur hour.
The context: The Ninth Circuit case, House v. NCAA, was filed in 2020 by three NCAA athletes, including TCU hooper Sedona Prince. In November 2023, it was deemed a class action lawsuit and now represents over 14.5K college athletes, arguing that the NCAA’s pre-2021 policy prohibiting NIL earnings entitles these athletes to back pay.
- However, the NCAA argued that the estimated $4B in lost NIL wages would be a “death knell” for the organization’s case, despite Power Five conferences alone reportedly bringing in around $7B in annual revenue. Huh.
The politics: By fighting the amateurism loophole, athletes are increasingly looking to be recognized as employees, which has inevitably led to union and professionalization talk. NIL is also being discussed in Congress, with a bipartisan divide developing — everyone applauded athletes profiting from their success, but employee status, union protections, and revenue-sharing are additional objectives from the left of the aisle.
Zooming out: Athletes know there’s a lot of money at the table, and they’re going to keep fighting — especially women student-athletes, who are seeking Title IX protections as the NIL space becomes increasingly codified. If they can get a legal win, the precedent could create a domino effect where athletes may actually earn what they make for their athletic programs. Pay them what you owe them.