Another one of those suits where student-athletes, in this case, some former track players, sought to have a court find that athletes put in enough work at universities to be entitled to minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act was shot down. The ruling itself wasn’t especially notable, but the rationale supporting it certainly was.
Plaintiff attorney Paul McDonald summarized the result of the decision. “Student athletes now join prisoners as the only citizens who, as a matter of law, cannot be considered employees,” he said.
He shitteth you not, good people.
… Instead, at both the district and circuit levels, they threw the case out by using a single piece of case law, Vanskike v. Peters, involving convicts. In Vanskike, an inmate at a state prison in Joliet, Ill., had asked for wages. The Seventh Circuit declined to apply the test questions in that instance because asking who benefits from an inmate’s labor was nonsensical and didn’t “capture” the “real relationship” of prisoner to prison.
So, to be clear, the best way to “capture” the relationship of athletes to their campus is to view them as detainees?
The Seventh Circuit’s contorted reasoning bears repeating. College athletes are similar to prisoners economically because the “revered tradition of amateurism” in college spanning than 100 years “defines the economic reality of the relationship between student-athletes and their schools,” the court wrote. As with inmates, asking any questions about who benefits from their work would “fail to capture the true nature of their relationship.” In other words, amateurism is as confining and defining as jail.
Then the court went one step further and declared, “Simply put, student-athletic ‘play’ is not ‘work,’ as least as the term is used in the FLSA.”
It turns out those folks comparing student-athletes’ conditions to life on a plantation were wrong. According to the Seventh Circuit, they have even less rights than sharecroppers. Go figure.