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The U.S. Supreme Court Building. Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images

The NCAA's strict limits on college athletes' compensation get less tenable every day.

Driving the news: The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case challenging the NCAA's ban on certain education-related benefits, like laptops and scholarships for graduate school.

  • Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is set to introduce a "College Athletes Bill of Rights" today that would, among other things, require revenue-generating sports to share their profits with athletes.

The backdrop: Booker's proposal is the latest effort in Congress to let college athletes share in the profits they generate, but it's not the first, and several states have passed or considered similar bills.

  • "The NCAA is basically juggling flaming knives right here," Gabe Feldman, director of the Tulane Sports Law Program, told WashPost.

Between the lines: These various shots across the NCAA's bow may not succeed individually — the association could very well win the Supreme Court case, and action in Congress is still an uphill climb.

  • The NCAA has so far managed to fend off nearly every formal effort to chip away at its tight restrictions on player compensation, but the pressure just keeps mounting, and that alone is already making a difference.
  • An NCAA committee is slated to vote next month on proposals to let some athletes profit off their name, image and likeness.

Details: The case the Supreme Court agreed to take up yesterday — a suit filed by former West Virginia RB Shawne Alston — doesn't deal directly with cash payments to athletes, but rather with the NCAA’s ban on other benefits more directly tied to education.

  • The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this spring that those rules violate antitrust law, because they give universities the power to "artificially cap compensation at a level that is not commensurate with student-athletes' value."
  • The ban on cash payments, the court said, might be essential to the NCAA's branding as an amateur league, but allowing schools to give athletes a study-abroad scholarship, or to cover the cost of science equipment for a class, would not make them professional athletes.

The other side: The 9th Circuit's ruling "will fundamentally transform the century-old institution of NCAA sports, blurring the traditional line between college and professional athletes," the NCAA said in a brief to the high court.

What's next: The court will likely hand down a decision by June.

Go deeper

Dec 18, 2020 - Health

Supreme Court denies religious school challenge to Kentucky's COVID-19 restrictions

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (right). Photo: Jon Cherry via Getty

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to block Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order halting in-person instruction at most K-12 schools, including religious schools, through the end of the year, noting that the order "effectively expires this week or shortly thereafter."

Why it matters: The decision follows several cases that examined whether state coronavirus restrictions affecting religious institutions, including places of worship violate, the First Amendment.

Trump's judicial legacy will block Biden's

Data: Federal Judicial CenterU.S. Courts; Note: Trump data is through Dec. 1, 2002; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

President Trump’s astounding record of judicial appointments will not only reshape the judiciary for a generation, but it will likely deny President-elect Joe Biden the chance to put much of his own stamp on the courts.

Game developers break silence around salaries

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Developers are sharing their salaries on Twitter under the hashtag #GameDevPaidMe to encourage pay transparency in their industry.

The big picture: The hashtag started circulating last year, but has returned periodically as developers fight for better working conditions. Salary sharing is a way to equalize the field. By removing the secrecy, as well as the stigma, around discussing pay, workers have more power to advocate for themselves when negotiating salaries and raises.