: Former college football player sues NCAA, says student athletes should be paid minimum wage

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Former Villanova University football player Ralph “Trey” Johnson and his attorneys have filed a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA Wednesday for committing minimum wage violations. Johnson, who played in college through the 2017 season, is seeking to hold the NCAA and its Division I Member Schools in Pennsylvania accountable for its refusal to pay student athletes. Johnson is the lead plaintiff and is submitting the lawsuit on behalf of “all persons similarly situated.”

The lawsuit contends that student athletes are engaged in “athletic work” and should be compensated for such work. The lawsuit also compares college-athletes to students employed in work-study programs, who are paid on an hourly basis.

“This is not about being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Johnson said in his statement. “We are simply asking the NCAA to pay its student athletes the basic minimum wage as required by federal law.”

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The lawsuit comes as the state of California recently passed legislation allowing college athletes to make money off endorsements, and capitalize off their names and likenesses. The legislation has only been passed in California and won’t begin until January 1, 2023.

The NCAA recently took the first steps to allow college athletes to make money while playing when the NCAA Board of Governors unanimously voted that players should “benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness.”

The vote by the NCAA was not a satisfactory one for Johnson. “The NCAA’s recent move to permit student athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness illustrates that the untenable amateurism model is simply a smokescreen used to protect the pockets of the NCAA and its member schools,” Johnson claimed.

Irwin Kishner, co-chair of the Sports Law Group at law firm Herrick Feinstein, is not optimistic about Johnson’s chances in this case, and is especially not inspired by the work-study comparison. It’s not “as good of an argument as the exploitation of the name image and likeness,” Kishner told MarketWatch. “Based on everything I have assessed, I think the analysis made by Mr. Johnson’s lawyers are a bit stretched to come to the conclusion that Mr. Johnson is entitled to minimum wage.”

The NCAA didn’t respond to a request for comment on this story.

The minimum wage in the Pennsylvania is $7.25 an hour, the lowest state minimum wage in the country.

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