A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit claiming that the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Pac-12 Conference infringed on labor laws and thus owed money to a former Division I football player.
The suit, filed by ex-University of Southern California football player Lamar Dawson, represents the continued legal battle to redefine college athletes as employees and secure them compensation.
California Judge Richard Seeborg threw out Dawson’s case Tuesday, writing that the U.S. Department of Labor has not historically considered athletes employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which Dawson had alleged the NCAA and Pac-12 violated, along with the California labor code.
Seeborg wrote in his order that he was persuaded by a similar case in the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which decided “the long tradition of amateurism in college sports, by definition, shows that student athletes — like all amateur athletes — participate in their sports for reasons wholly unrelated to immediate compensation.”
Multiple courts have found that student athletes are not employees, Seeborg wrote.
Dawson argued that the Seventh Circuit case concerned University of Pennsylvania track and field athletes, who were not bringing in the same “massive revenues” as a Division I football team. He likened his team and others that generate revenue for institutions to a work-study program.
But Seeborg, too, rejected this, noting that the federal labor law does not distinguish between sports that rake in money for an institution and those that do not.
“There is a difference between work-study programs, which exist for the benefit of the school, and football programs, which exist for the benefit of students and, in some limited circumstances, also benefit the school,” Seeborg wrote.