Trials & Error

Trials & Error: NCAA v. Alston

October 27, 2022

College sports and money: what does it mean to be a student-athlete?  The NCAA generates roughly $1 billion per year, while college athletes are barred from receiving any of the revenue stream that they generate on the field. But what about other, non-cash benefits related to school–tutoring, internships, summers abroad, post-graduate degrees, lab equipment and musical instruments? The Supreme Court, in NCAA v. Alston, in a 9-0 ruling, answered that question.  Today, some student-athletes receive compensation for the use of their name, image and likeness.  What about those who, years earlier, were stripped of their titles, scholarships, and subsequent careers?

On October 27, 2022 FOLCS was joined by the Executive Director of the National College Players Association, Ramogi Huma; Jeffrey Kessler, the attorney who litigated some of the most important sports cases (including NCAA v. Alston); and Joe Nocera, the award-winning business journalist and author of Indentured: The Inside Story of the Rebellion Against the NCAA.  In the first virtual installment of FOLCS Trials & Error Series, our leading experts deconstruct this groundbreaking case, where the rights of college athletes stand today, and the price of preserving amateurism.

Watch Trials & Error: NCAA v. Alston here.

See more from FOLCS here.

Ramogi Huma
Executive Director, National College Players Association

Ramogi Huma is a college athletes’ rights advocate with over two decades of service as Executive Director for the National College Players Association. In this role, Huma has testified multiple times in support of broad protections and freedoms for college athletes in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. Huma’s testimony and advocacy has been pivotal in the adoption of college athlete name, image and likeness laws in dozens of states. He also helped arrange and support several antitrust lawsuits in pursuit of college athletes’ rights including Alston v. NCAA, which resulted in a 9-0 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of college athletes.  Huma designed and helped implement dynamic campaigns among college athletes including #NotNCAAProperty, #WeAreUnited, and #AllPlayersUnited. He co-authored several groundbreaking studies focusing on economic harm caused by the NCAA’s price-fixing of college athlete compensation such as “How the NCAA’s Empire Robs Predominantly Black College Athletes of Billions in Generational Wealth”.

Huma also served as the President of the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA), a labor organization that attempted to unionize Northwestern football players. The unionization effort was the foundation of the National Labor Relations Board General Counsel’s September 2021 memo declaring that college athletes are employees. Huma’s advocacy has been covered in many media outlets such as “60 Minutes”, ABC, CBS, CNN, ESPN, Fox Sports, “Good Morning America”, MSNBC, NBC, and NPR. Huma was recognized by ESPN as one of “The 11 biggest power brokers and advocates shaping the future of college football” (2022), one of the “12 New Faces of Black Leadership” by Time Magazine (2015), and was included in Yahoo! Sports list of College Football’s Top 25 Most Intriguing People in Suits” (2014). Huma earned his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Master of Public Health at UCLA.

Jeffrey Kessler
Co-Executive Chairman & Antitrust/Competition Law Co-Chair, Winston & Strawn LLP

Jeffrey L. Kessler is a partner in Winston & Strawn’s New York office who serves as the Co- Chair of Winston’s global antitrust/competition practice. Additionally, Mr. Kessler serves as Co-Executive Chair of the firm. He focuses his practice on all aspects of antitrust/competition, sports law, intellectual property, complex litigation, and government criminal and civil investigations. He has been lead counsel in some of the most complex sports law and antitrust law cases in the country, including the Alston class action antirust litigation against the NCAA, which led to a 9-0 Supreme Court ruling in favor of the college players, striking down NCAA compensation restraints.

Jeffrey is one of the most prominent lawyers in the country regularly engaged in high-profile sports litigation. He has litigated some of the most famous sports cases in history, including Morgan v. USSF, the successful equal pay fight of the members of the Women’s National Team in soccer, Alston v. NCAA, where, as mentioned above, Jeffrey secured a unanimous 9-0 victory in the United States Supreme Court on behalf of Division I men’s and women’s basketball and FBS college football players, McNeil v. the NFL, the landmark antitrust jury trial, which led to the establishment of free agency in the National Football League (NFL), and Brady v. NFL, which led to the end of the 2011 NFL lockout.

Some of Mr. Kessler’s clients in the sports law area have included the NFL Players Association , the National Basketball Players Association, the Arena Football League Players Association, the National Hockey League Players Association, the Major League Baseball Players Association, the National Invitation Tournament , Relevent Sports, Endeavor and WME Sports, Activision Blizzard in esports, Wasserman Media Group, the NFL Coaches Association, Super Slam, FloSports, Players, Inc., the Women’s Tennis Benefit Association, MVP Sports Group and Adidas. Mr. Kessler has also represented various classes of NBA, NFL, AFL, Elite Swimmers and MLS players, the North American Soccer League, the United States Football League, and the Cities of San Diego and Oakland, as well as Alameda County, in various sports law disputes and litigations. Mr. Kessler negotiated the current free agency/salary cap systems in the NFL and NBA, and represented Latrell Sprewell, Tom Brady, Ezekiel Elliot, Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, the Bounty players on New Orleans and Dashaun Watson in their suspension arbitrations and litigation by their unions. He also represented pro bono Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee athlete, in his successful arbitration to obtain the right to compete against able-bodied athletes around the world.

Jeffrey received a J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1977, where he was a Kent Scholar and on the Board of Editors for the Columbia Law Review. He received a B.A., summa cum laude, from Columbia University in 1975.

Joe Nocera
Journalist, Business & Sports Author

Joe Nocera was an Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times between April 2011 and November 2015.  Before his Opinion column, he wrote the “Talking Business” column for The New York Times each Saturday and was a staff writer for The New York Times magazine.  He joined the paper in 2005.

For more than three decades, Mr. Nocera has chronicled the world of business at magazines like Fortune, GQ, Esquire and Texas Monthly. He has won three Gerald Loeb awards, including the 2008 award for commentary, and three John Hancock awards for excellence in business journalism.  His most recent book co-authored with Ben Strauss, Indentured: The Inside Story of the Rebellion Against the NCAA won the PEN/ESPSN Award for Literary Sports Writing.  A 2007 Pulitzer finalist, he has written other books including A Piece of the Action: How the Middle Class Joined the Money Class, which won the New York Public Library’s 1995 Helen Bernstein Award; Good Guys and Bad Guys: Behind the Scenes With the Saints and Scoundrels of American Business (and Everything in Between), and All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis, which he co-authored with Bethany McLean.

Mr. Nocera received a B.S. in journalism from Boston University in 1974. He lives in New York City.