If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again: Why College Athletes Should Keep Fighting for “Employee” Status

By Jennifer A. Shults

Beginning in the 1980s, innovations in television turned college sports from a modest, regional industry into a sprawling, billion-dollar enterprise. The various stakeholders in college sports did not benefit equally from these advancements, however. While those in charge of college sports rode the train of technological progress to extreme profits, the athletes under their care got left behind. Today, the college sports world is once again undergoing a period of transition and transformation—except this time, college athletes are the ones leading college sports into a new era.

In recent years, athlete activists and their allies have secured a series of major legal victories. Key victories have included the removal of the ban on college athletes profiting from their fame and the Supreme Court’s watershed decision in the antitrust case NCAA v. Alston. This Note focuses on college athletes’ recent efforts to improve their financial circumstances and to dismantle a system that deprives them of the basic right to fair compensation. This Note argues that Division I athletes’ best shot at getting fair compensation is to continue fighting for employee rights—specifically, the right to collectively bargain and the right to a minimum wage.

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