The Path to Employee Status for College Athletes Post-Alston
College athletics are in a state of flux following the Supreme Court’s decision in NCAA v. Alston. While student athletes can now earn money from their name image and likeness (NIL) through endorsement deals, the NCAA and its member schools can still exploit college athletes to earn billions of dollars. To remedy this injustice, courts should classify student athletes as employees under the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to compensate these students for their work. Whether student athletes should be eligible for minimum wage and employment benefits has been a hot-button topic in the legal community for many years. Fortunately, the Alston decision and subsequent NIL policy changes give student athletes their strongest argument to be classified as an employee to date.
Because of Alston’s effects on the legal status of NIL, courts should classify student athletes as employees—not independent contractors—under the various employment tests, and thus grant student athletes FLSA protections. Employee classification for student athletes would require NCAA member schools to alter their business models in order to compensate student athletes for the labor they provide; the NCAA has no other option but to subsidize schools that cannot meet this new expense. If the NCAA fails to do so, other amateur sports organizations may soon take its place.