Former College Athletes Testify in NCAA Antitrust Trial

On September 7, 2018, three former college athletes, Shawne Alston, Martin Jenkins, and Justine Hartman, each testified that the NCAA “exploited them” by pushing them to prioritize athletics over academics. As we have previously reported, in this lawsuit a class of college athletes are attempting to challenge the existing NCAA amateurism rules and attempting to create an open market for various NCAA schools to compete for top college recruits.

Hartman, a former University of California basketball player, testified that the NCAA exploited her by severely limiting the scholarship money so much that she often went hungry. According to Hartman, she sometimes skipped classes because she was too hungry and tried to concentrate following her daily six-hour basketball practices. Further, Hartman testified that her NCAA scholarship did not cover her daily living expenses, often forcing her to pay rent with money earmarked for food. “We don’t have the means to excel at the highest level academically … We go without a lot. There are many with similar experiences, where they’re hungry and too tired” to focus on academics, Hartman said.

Alston, a former West Virginia running back, echoed many points made by Hartman. Alston testified that he was “always stressed about money.” “People really stress about where they’re going to get their next meal,” he said. Alston claimed that he was regularly injured and hungry, which made finding time for academics difficult. Jenkins, a former Clemson football player, recalled that as an athlete nearly every hour of his day was planned. A typical day would start at 6 a.m. and would end late with reviewing game film. Jenkins estimated that he spent roughly 50 hours per week on football, leaving little time for schoolwork.

In order to accommodate their intense schedule, Hartman, Alston, and Jenkins all testified that their advisers pushed him choose “easier,” and less time-consuming, classes and majors, which would not conflict with their practice schedules. For example, Jenkins started as a business major; however, his busy schedule, and encouragement from his adviser, forced him to switch his major to sociology. In addition, each testified that they felt segregated from the rest of the campus, since they were required to eat and practice in athlete-only facilities.

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