To Pay or Not To Pay … College Athletes

Happy Thursday! We’d like to give a special shout out to Uncle Sadegh, a taxi driver in the coastal city of Rasht, Iran. Well-known locally for posting videos on social media of himself dancing jubilantly in the streets of his city, the Iranian regime shut down his account—apparently because it was … too happy.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • COP28, the United Nations’ two-week climate change conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, concluded on Wednesday with an agreement from the nearly 200 countries represented to “transition away” from fossil fuels—the first time the meeting has resulted in an explicit call to end the use of the resources. More than half of the parties at the conference lobbied for stronger language in the final text—a promise to “phase out” fossil fuels—but met resistance from countries part of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The agreement has no enforcement mechanism. 
  • The Federal Reserve held interest rates steady following the central bank’s meeting on Wednesday, maintaining a target range for the federal funds rate between 5.25 and 5.5 percent and marking the third consecutive meeting that the Fed has left rates unchanged. Officials signaled that rate cuts could come next year as inflation continues to cool, prompting a rally in the markets that resulted in the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing at an all-time high. Members of the central bank’s Federal Open Markets Committee projected that the federal funds rate would be 4.6 percent by the end of next year, suggesting three quarter-point cuts in 2024. Fed Chair Jerome Powell emphasized the need to proceed carefully, but also signaled that the central bank is focused on the risk of not cutting rates soon enough and slowing the U.S. economy more than necessary. “We’re aware of the risk that we would hang on too long,” he said at a press conference yesterday. “We know that that’s a risk and we’re very focused on not making that mistake.”
  • The Supreme Court announced Wednesday it will take up a case to decide whether rioters who breached the Capitol on January 6, 2021, can be charged with obstruction of an official proceeding—referring to efforts to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 election. The charge is among the four charges against former President Donald Trump in special counsel Jack Smith’s case in Washington, D.C. More than 300 people are facing such an obstruction charge, which defendant Joseph Fischer is challenging, related to the January 6 insurrection. 
  • The Supreme Court also said it would hear a Biden administration challenge to a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling limiting access to the abortion pill mifepristone. The Fifth Circuit had previously ruled that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not follow proper procedures when it began expanding access to the drug originally approved some 20 years ago, suggesting the court’s ruling could also have implications for the FDA’s regulatory powers.
  • Federal Judge Tanya Chutkan on Wednesday paused proceedings in former President Donald Trump’s case regarding his efforts to overturn the 2020 election while he appeals a decision regarding his immunity. “As the D.C. Circuit recently made clear, a former President’s absolute immunity would constitute ‘an entitlement not to stand trial or face the other burdens of litigation,’” Chutkan wrote in her order, adding that, if the case was returned to her court, she would consider, “consistent with its duty to ensure both a speedy trial and fairness for all parties.” Part of that consideration would be whether to keep any deadlines thus far established, including a trial start date scheduled for March 4, the day before Super Tuesday.
  • House Republicans voted unanimously on Wednesday to formally authorize an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, officially directing the House Judiciary and Ways and Means Committees to continue their probe into ties between the president and Hunter Biden’s business activity. Republicans have argued a formal inquiry is necessary to compel the Bidens and the White House to comply with subpoenas in their investigation. “Today’s vote of the full House of Representatives authorizing the inquiry puts us in the strongest position to enforce these subpoenas in court,” said House Speaker Mike Johnson. Democrats decried the inquiry as a partisan sham. “There is no evidence that President Joe Biden has engaged in wrongdoing,” claimed House Majority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.
  • Hunter Biden defied a House Republican subpoena to appear for closed-door testimony Wednesday, showing up outside the Capitol instead to protest and call for an open hearing. “I’m here to testify in a public hearing today to answer any of the committee’s legitimate questions,” Hunter said at a press conference. The House Oversight Committee subpoenaed Hunter last month, with a December 13 deadline to appear for testimony. House Oversight Chair James Comer and House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan said yesterday they would “initiate contempt of Congress proceedings” against Hunter.

The Wild West of College Athletics

Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman takes the snap during a college football game against the Stanford Cardinal on November 25, 2023 at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)
Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman takes the snap during a college football game against the Stanford Cardinal on November 25, 2023 at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)

A district judge in West Virginia issued a 14-day temporary restraining order against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) on Wednesday, pausing the enforcement of the “Transfer Eligibility Rule,” which effectively benches for a year certain student athletes who transfer colleges. It’s a short-term win for students looking to take their talents elsewhere, but it also raises new questions in the ongoing battle over how a student may profit from their personal brand.

College athletes were granted permission to profit from their name, image, and likeness (NIL) in a landmark 2021 ruling by the Supreme Court—though the ensuing years have opened the floodgates to controversy and confusion as a patchwork of state laws and school regulations complicates matters, predominantly for student athletes. In recent weeks, the NCAA has proposed radical new rules to regulate the student athlete sponsorship market, while a bipartisan collection of lawmakers works to get a national standard across the finish line.

In June 2021, the Supreme Court handed down a unanimous 9-0 ruling in NCAA v. Alston that stated the NCAA had violated antitrust law by limiting the amount of in-kind, education-related benefits colleges and universities could provide to their athletes. While the immediate ruling was not directly related to sponsorship deals or NIL opportunities, the NCAA announced its own interim policy about a week after the ruling “suspending NCAA name, image and likeness rules for all incoming and current student-athletes in all sports.” Under the new policy, students were allowed to engage in NIL activities as prescribed by the law of the state where their school is located. Schools were tasked with helping students navigate those state laws, and students were required to report all approved NIL activities to their school.

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