One Lawsuit Could Massively Impact College Sports

What could come from Johnson v. NCAA?

College football
A lawsuit might have a big impact on Division I sports.
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

NIL deals were just the beginning. While college athletes now have some opportunities to make money as a result of their athletic achievement, the NCAA is still a long way away from paying — say — Division I athletes to play their respective sports. There’s a legal case currently underway that could take the country much farther down the road to the professionalization of college sports.

The name of the case is Johnson v. NCAA, and — writing at The Athletic — Nicole Auerbach and Mike Vorkunov make a convincing case that it “demands more external attention than it has received to date.”

The lawsuit originated in 2019, when Trey Johnson filed suit against the NCAA and several universities. As Auerbach and Vorkunov explain, he argued that athletes should be considered university employees. In the years since then, the case has grown, with more plaintiffs signing on.

Attempts by the NCAA to have the case dismissed haven’t gone in their favor. And, as Auerbach and Vorkunov point out, the U.S. Supreme Court has not been terribly sympathetic to the universities or the NCAA — suggesting that if this case reached them, it would likely follow a similar pattern.

Johnson v. NCAA is currently in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Where it goes from there remains uncertain — but wherever it does, its impact could be substantial.

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