College Sports Programs May Seek Antitrust Exemption If Court Favors Paying Athletes
Universities with "big-budget sports programs may ask Congress to give the NCAA an antitrust exemption should a federal court rule that it is illegal to forbid college athletes from making money," according to sources cited by Sharon Terlep of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Major college conferences and NCAA officials are discussing whether to seek the exemption as a way to "ward off a multi-front attack on the organization's founding principle of athletic amateurism -- an ideal that critics say is obsolete when it comes to the money-making sports of college football and men's basketball." Sources said that such a request would be a "last-ditch effort for schools given the significant hurdles to winning over lawmakers." NCAA President Mark Emmert acknowledged the discussions about an exemption and said that he could "envision winning political support for such a move." Experts and academics have "long debated the merits of an exemption for college sports." But "now more than ever, schools have reason to pursue it," as a ruling is expected within weeks on a landmark federal antitrust case brought by current and former athletes that "could open the door to paychecks for college players." MLB won an antitrust exemption in a 1922 Supreme Court ruling that found federal antitrust law "didn't apply to baseball because the game was a local affair, not interstate commerce" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/31).