Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The NBA's "One and Done Rule" is Patently Unfair

Last night, University of Kentucky star freshman Nerlens Noel injured his knee in his team's contest against the University of Florida.  While the extent of his injury has not been made public, and we all keep our fingers crossed (reports are torn ACL, out for the year), it reminds us of the patently unfair draft eligibility rules in the sport of basketball.  By virtually any account, Noel was one of the premier high school basketball players in the country, and should he have been inclined, an early lottery pick in the 2013 NBA draft.  Let's hope that opportunity is still within Noel's grasp.

As readers to this blog should know by now, the NBA and NBPA have agreed in their CBA that basketball players have to wait one year from the time their class graduates from high school to be eligible for the NBA draft.  The result is the infamous "One and Done" rule that forces players to attend college--or head overseas (Brandon Jennings)--before they can enter the NBA.  While I'll let others (and I mean you Michael McCann) make the age eligibility restraint of trade arguments, the courts have decided that current union members can impose limits on future members.  See Clarett v NFL among other cases.

Unfortunately, the NCAA does no favors to elite student athletes by capping the potential disability insurance policies that these players can obtain.  According to the NCAA's "Exceptional Student-Athlete Disability Insurance" (ESDI) guidelines, the cap on coverage in the sport of basketball is $5 million dollars for permanent disability insurance.  There are no provisions of loss of value insurance policies that would address an injury that lowers a players draft slot selection but doesn't make them permanently injured.  An 2013 NBA lottery pick will make multiples of that in their first guaranteed contract.  While we can hope Noel's injury is both minor and not a barrier to his NBA potential--and its financial implications--the NCAA, the NBA, and NBPA have not helped him in any way.

A year and a half ago, I wrote a law review article for the Harvard Journal of Sports & Entertainment Law entitled "Transitioning to the NBA: Advocating on Behalf of Student-Athletes for NBA & NCAA Rule Changes."  A copy of this article can be found here.  How many more times do we have to lament the "bad luck" of NCAA student-athletes without making any changes?  Let's hope that Noel's lack of choices after high school do not derail either his NBA career or the abundant riches it would bring.

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