Thursday December 7, 2023

Defendants’ Latest Play

  • In Johnson v. NCAA, the plaintiffs argue that college athletes should be considered employees.
  • The NCAA and schools employed a new tactic last week to get the case thrown out.
Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY/Design: Alex Brooks
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The NCAA and schools are continuing to employ tactics to get a potentially watershed case, Johnson v. NCAA, thrown out before it reaches the discovery phase. 

The case, first filed in 2019, argues that college athletes should be considered employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act. If found in favor of the athletes, the case could invalidate the amateurism model.

  • Recently, a Pennsylvania judge denied the NCAA and schools’ motions to dismiss the case, finding that the plaintiffs’ claim could have merit. 
  • But now, the schools and NCAA are asking the judge to allow a higher court to re-examine the decision to deny their motion to dismiss, Boise State law professor Sam Ehrlich told FOS.
  • “It’s kind of a bold move,” he said. It’s “like going to your professor and saying, ‘Hey, I don’t agree with your decision in this grading…so can I appeal it to someone? Who can I appeal it to?’”

The schools noted two previous cases where courts found that athletes aren’t considered employees. They also claimed the Alston decision doesn’t apply to the Johnson case because it ruled on whether athletes could receive educational benefits — not salaries as employees.  

Athletes’ lawyers disputed this, of course. The Alston decision and the NLRB have “made it clear that the NCAA’s antiquated (and frankly, offensive) notion that it does not have to pay student-athletes despite making billions of dollars through their efforts is no longer legally permissible,” their response said.

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