I don’t know whether to laugh or shake my head over this.
A “friend-of-the-court” brief filed last month in a potentially landmark U.S. Supreme Court case on NCAA amateurism purported to show that at least some former athletes, including those who participated in the so-called revenue sports, don’t want intercollegiate athletics to open the door to schools paying players.
The amici curiae brief in NCAA v. Alston, for which SCOTUS will hear oral arguments on March 31, has 18 former college athletes expressing support for the stance of college sports’ governing body. The association has appealed a lower federal court ruling that says the NCAA violates antitrust laws with some of its caps on athletic scholarships.
In making their case, the pro-NCAA filing states that the athletes’ interest “lies in ensuring the proper adherence to the revered tradition of amateurism and the continued availability of intercollegiate athletics.”
But in recent interviews, several of the brief’s signatories, including its most high-profile name—two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up and retired NFL running back Darren McFadden—suggested they weren’t actually clear with which side they were on, at least when it comes to amateurism, or had joined in the effort for largely peripheral reasons.
Yeah, I’d say this qualifies as not being clear.
In a telephone conversation last week, McFadden indicated that he was largely unaware of what the grant-in-aid litigation was about and gave indications that his intuitions were more in line with the plaintiffs.
“Once you are an adult, you want to make sure you can take care of your family…. You don’t really get that opportunity to help your family out [while in college],” McFadden said, later adding that he supported college athletes getting an additional stipend to their scholarship. When asked about what personal experiences had informed his perspective on the subject of college athlete compensation, McFadden spoke about being an SEC football star who was unable to afford paying a $50 parking ticket.
In a separate interview, Walter Bond, a former basketball star at Minnesota who played four seasons in the NBA, said that despite being part of the amici curiae, he believed college athletes were, in fact, employees of the universities they played for—a nonstarter for any legal defense of amateurism. “I think I must have misunderstood,” Bond later said about the case, acknowledging that it was possible he didn’t actually agree with the NCAA’s position.
Then, there’s also the “just doing a buddy a solid” angle.
Meanwhile, another former college basketball player who signed the brief, Tre’ Kelley, suggested he had primarily joined the amici curiae because of his connections to Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, the firm that filed the brief.
“I am actually doing a favor for a good buddy of mine who works for the firm,” Kelley told Sportico. After initially agreeing to speak for this story, Kelley politely declined to answer other questions, saying that he had been contacted by Orrick an hour before a scheduled interview and advised to not talk about the case with the press.
In a statement, Will Stute, one of the Orrick lawyers who authored the brief, said it “fully and accurately reflects their support of the NCAA’s position on the issues before the Supreme Court. It is false and misleading to suggest otherwise.”
Heavens to Betsy, we can’t have that!
I’d say the NCAA ought to be ashamed of itself, but that particular horse escaped from the barn a long time ago.