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The Highest Court in the Land

Did you know that the highest court is really a court?

Name – Image – Likeness… NIL as it is called.

There are changes happening that will cause huge reactions from fans of NCAA athletics. In a simplified nutshell, the Supreme Court has kicked open the door for NCAA athletes to have some sort of compensation for the use of their name, their image, and their likeness.

They are not getting “paid to play,” but the NCAA is going to have to do some reorienting. Universities, Kentucky included, are going to have to become more purposed in the way they market.

Basketball purists are upset because they see the potential problems in this change and would prefer that things stayed the same. That is reasonable and understandable – but unrealistic. The world and culture have changed and while it is easy to be critical, it is much more difficult to be proactive and figure out ways to move forward successfully.

The University of Kentucky has the administration and the staff in place to navigate this new era. What will it look like? Who knows. It has been suggested that something resembling a collective bargaining agreement with the players may be the result. Time will tell.

However, back at the Supreme Court, the ruling implied the NCAA is going to have to change. “The NCAA’s business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America,” wrote Justice Brett Kavanaugh. “The bottom line is that the NCAA and its members are suppressing the pay of student-athletes who collectively generate billions of dollars in revenues for colleges every year. Those enormous sums of money flow to seemingly everyone except the student-athletes.”

In a world where student-athletes get scholarships, room, board, books and other perks for their full time job of being a student athlete, they produce a product that generates massive profits for the NCAA and the schools in general. Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that the NCAA is a “massive business” and those “who run this enterprise profit in a different way than the student-athletes whose activities they oversee.”

So the times are changing and the highest court in the land has weighed in. In the world of basketball, many people don’t realize that the Supreme Court of the United States really is the highest court in the land. Not because of the authority they have but because the Supremes have a basketball court in the Supreme Court.

No kidding! At roughly 78 feet long and 37 feet wide, the court is smaller than the regulation 94-by-50 feet, with walls hugging the sidelines and the eagle of the Supreme Court seal spreading its wings across mid-court. The sign near the entrance is ominous: PLAYING BASKETBALL AND WEIGHT LIFTING ARE PROHIBITED WHILE THE COURT IS IN SESSION. But when the court is not in session, it becomes a playground for the Supremes, clerks, staff, and the occasional guest.

Once the robes are off and everyone laces up their shoes, then it is game time. Among those who have or continue to frequent the “highest court in the land” are Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Elena Kagan, Justice Neil Gorsuch, including his time as a clerk for White and Justice Anthony Kennedy. Justice Brett Kavanaugh began playing there during his time as a Kennedy clerk. The most widely known injury happened when Thomas famously tore his Achilles tendon while playing against Karl Tilleman, a former clerk of his, who played for Canada’s Olympic basketball team during the 1980s.

So SCOTUS brings a whole new meaning to the basketball “court” and are now involved in the NCAA. The highest court in the land is going to change the landscape of college athletics.