The Biden administration, through the Justice Department, has thrown its weight behind a lawsuit challenging the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) authority over college athletes.
According to Politico, this move adds a new layer of complexity to the NCAA’s pursuit of federal antitrust protection from Congress.
The lawsuit, initially filed in December by a bipartisan group of state attorneys general, targets the NCAA’s eligibility restrictions on college athletes who transfer between schools. A federal judge in West Virginia has issued a temporary block on the NCAA from enforcing the rule until the lawsuit is resolved.
This marks a significant departure from the norm, as the Justice Department and states commonly collaborate on antitrust lawsuits, but this instance represents the first time the federal government has joined a state-led case. The move underscores the increasing scrutiny on the NCAA’s practices regarding athlete mobility and eligibility.
Related: The NCAA Faces New Antitrust Suit
Jonathan Kanter, the head of the DOJ’s antitrust division, emphasized the importance of empowering college athletes in their choices. He stated, “College athletes should be able to freely choose the institutions that best meet their academic, personal, and professional development needs without anticompetitive restrictions that limit their mobility by sacrificing a year of athletic competition.”
Federal antitrust prosecutors have had the NCAA in their sights for an extended period and have previously supported college athletes through amicus briefs in private cases. Notably, the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision, which relaxed restrictions on athlete compensation, received backing from the Department of Justice.
As the legal battle unfolds, it remains to be seen how this collaboration between the federal government and state attorneys general will impact the NCAA’s influence over college athletes and whether it prompts legislative changes to address antitrust concerns in collegiate sports.