The Supreme Court Shaping the Future of Athletes, Lawmakers, and Businesspeople from High School to College Sports

The Supreme Court of the United States is now allowing college athletes to be compensated for their name, image, and likeness. As stated by Justice Kavanaugh “The NCAA is not above the law.”[i] The ability to have a Supreme Court Justice state this message is a huge win for high school athletes planning to pursue athletics in college. Additionally, Justice Kavanaugh states “the NCAA couches its arguments for not paying student-athletes in innocuous labels. But the labels cannot disguise the reality: The NCAA’s business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America.”[ii]

Now that high school athletes will be facing a new playing field of being able to receive compensation when they attend college, how do they go about this? High school athletes that do plan to play college sports need better preparedness for the new business model, the NCAA will be instituting to compensate athletes. With imminent laws allowing college players to make money off their name, image, and likeness, most schools are in an arms race, hiring third-party companies to act as consultants in content creation, education, and compliance. This is extremely important for students as businesses can now enter into contracts with high school students for when they go out and become athletes at colleges. To be prepared for this, high school students will need to take courses or be given instruction to understand their role in the business. It is well known that a lot of musical artists who sign contracts do not have proper representation at times and end up getting scammed out of the compensation they earned, because of the inability to understand contractual agreements. Which is not the fault of the musical artist. High schools athletes and their parents will now take on a larger responsibility in ensuring that the athletes who are being represented by a company, while they are athletes in college, are properly equipped with the knowledge to receive just compensation from their name, image, and likeness.

The way that high school athletes can be prepared for the new business model of receiving compensation from their name, image, and likeness is by requiring high schools to teach about the new laws in their sports courses. In the state of Texas, the majority of public high schools require their athletes to take a course of the sport they play on their schedule. This is done to give the students physical education credit. During this course, the Texas education system should instruct the teachers/coaches of this course to teach the high school athletes about the new law of getting compensation in college. Additionally, in that same course, the Texas education system should instruct the teachers/coaches to teach the high school students about personal and business finance. This will set the high school athletes up for a better chance of success when being compensated in college as an athlete.

High school athletes need to understand their place in the new business model and need to understand how to go about receiving compensation in college and not get lost within it. As stated by a father of a high school athlete “How are we going to protect them? … How are we going to make it about the purity of the game?”[iii] This reiterates the importance of educating the high school athletes before the college of the new business model they are about to enter into. Additionally, this is a great opportunity to educate high school-age students who have an interest in the legal and financial side of sports, ways of understanding the college athlete’s compensation model to create ways they may influence athletes to make the best choices for themselves. Many avenues may implememnted to help benefit the high school athletes that want to play college sports and have the potential to earn compensation from doing so. It is the job of lawmakers and the state education systems to apply those avenues to create a better future for these future college athletes, lawyers, and businesspeople.

[i] Dan Murphy, Supreme Court unanimously sides with former college players in dispute with NCAA about compensation, ESPN, https://www.espn.com/college-sports/story/_/id/31679946/supreme-court-sides-former-players-dispute-ncaa-compensation.

[ii] Id.

[iii] Roman Stubbs, High school sports will feel the impact of NIL changes. For some, that’s cause for concern., Wash Post: High School Sports, https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2021/06/21/nil-changes-high-school-sports/.

Juvenile Justice Systems around the Globe: Alternative Ways to Address Youth (“AWAY”) Project

The “AWAY” Project analyzed changes implemented in the various juvenile justice systems of several European countries over the course of two years- from 2017 to 2018. [1] The countries included in the analysis were Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Romania and Belgium. The project’s main research questions were: (1) What are the existing measures and processes for diversion that exist in the countries, and in what percentage of cases of children in conflict with the law are they used?; (2) What factors (existing needs, gaps and pitfalls) hinder better and more frequent use of diversion and child-friendly justice practices?; and (3) what needs to be improved in the juvenile justice system to promote diversion and restorative justice using a child friendly approach? [2] Over the course of several blogs, I will discuss the findings of the “AWAY” project as it relates to the specific countries, and what the United States can take away and implement in our own system.

Juvenile Justice System: Belgium

Throughout Europe, national and European legislation (along with the ratification of the CRC) establishes that individuals under the age of 18 are considered children with limited legal capacity. [3] In Belgium, the juvenile justice system is called “protective justice” and the term “act deemed to constitute an offence (ADCO)” is used in place of “crime” or “offence” to enforce the view that children are not fully capable of understanding the nature of their criminal actions. [4] If a child is suspected of an “ADCO,” they will first meet with the police and be informed of their rights. [5]A prosecutor then has the choice to refer the case to the juvenile court or use a diversion method. These methods include taking no action, issuing a warning, or suggesting mediation with the victim. If a case is referred to a juvenile court, the judge has the option to issue several measures aimed at allowing the child to remain with their family or legal guardian. These options include issuing a warning, an order to take on a written project, outpatient therapy, community or educational services, restorative options, or for the child to go under supervision. In rare circumstances, the judge may place the child with a temporary guardian, or in an institution for psychiatric, therapeutic, or education services. [6]

Belgium’s system focuses on restorative justice and aims to repair the damage done by an ADCO and restore the bond between the perpetrator and the victim. If a victim has been identified the prosecutor must consider mediation, and if they choose against it, they must issue a written document stating that they have considered it but concluded that other measures are needed. All parties must agree on the mediation. The goal of the system is to keep the child with their families or legal guardian and always consider a restorative measure first. [7]

In comparison to the U.S. juvenile justice system, the “protective justice” system of Belgium gives police, prosecutors, judges, victims, children, and their parents/guardians far more options. Institutionalization is viewed as a last resort and there are multiple safeguards put in place to ensure it stays that way. Additionally, I think the language that the Belgium system uses is something the U.S. system could borrow from. It enforces the fact that that children’s brains are still developing, and as a result they are not able to fully comprehend the criminality of their actions in the way most fully developed adult brains could.

[1] Éva Kerpel et al., Alternative Ways to Address Youth (AWAY) Project Research Synthesis Report 5 (Viktória Sebhelyi et al. eds., 2018).

[2] Id. at 6.

[3] Id.

[4] Id. at 22.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id. at 23.

The Runaways: Foster Youth & Sex Trafficking in Houston, TX

I can say without controversy, and as a die-hard Houstonian, that the streets of Houston are not an ideal place for unaccompanied minors— especially those without adequate resources and support—to have healthy, formative experiences. And yet, thousands of children find themselves in this situation every year. The Texas Department of Family & Protective Services reported that 1,707 youth placed under their conservatorship ran away from their placements in 2017. In its annual Foster Youth Runaway Report, DFPS noted that being a runaway or homeless youth constitutes the number one risk factor for exploitation. A total of 35 young people reported having been sex trafficked while on runaway status in 2017, per that same report.

Establishing a causal link between homelessness and exploitation in young people might seem straightforward or even obvious given the lack of resources, familial support, stability, and guidance inherent to being unhoused. But unpacking the concrete reality of the situation reveals even more distressing truths. According to several studies cited in a 2013 report by the HHS Administration on Children, Youth, and Families (ACYF), anywhere from fifty to more than ninety percent of children who were victims of sex trafficking had been previously involved with child welfare services. What do we make of this unsettling correlation? How are we failing foster kids by allowing them to fall victim to trafficking?

Last week, I attended a Zoom panel hosted by the Juvenile & Children’s Advocacy Project (JCAP), United Against Human Trafficking (UAHT), and Unbound Houston, an organization centered on human trafficking awareness and prevention. One of the panelists, NH, spoke on the harrowing experience of foster care and surviving human trafficking. She pointed out that, when dealing with trafficking allegations, DFPS focuses its investigations on the child’s household; that is, the Department only has the legal authority to investigate the people directly responsible for the child’s welfare, like a parent or legal guardian. Traffickers don’t typically target members of their own households, let alone their own children. But the 2013 ACYF report noted that sex traffickers often recruit foster kids from group homes. And in NH’s case, the Department actually approved placement for her—a pregnant minor at the time—in a home with the man who would be her trafficker. Such a complete oversight shocks the conscience and makes one wonder: What, if anything, is being done to prevent this from happening?

In 2017, DFPS established the Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Division (HTCE); two years later, DFPS implemented a screening tool, called the Commercial Sexual Exploitation – Identification Tool (CSE-IT), developed to help caseworkers identify potential victims of trafficking among the kids who come under the care of the Department. The State is taking steps toward ameliorating the issue of child sex trafficking, largely due to widespread criticism—and legal action—regarding its previous methods. However, in 2019, DFPS reported that 2,122 kids under their conservatorship had run away at some point in the year and that 46 of those reported being sex trafficked—an increase in both the number of runaways and in trafficking instances compared to 2017. (Although this could be due to improved tracking/reporting systems). Also, data shows that sex trafficking cases (both of adults and youth) in Harris County actually doubled in 2019, with no indication of these numbers decreasing. Naturally, the 2020 pandemic has had some impact on these statistics, and perhaps it is still too early to determine whether the efforts of HTCE and DFPS’s improved screening techniques will help kids in situations like NH’s. But there is still the issue of the runaways.

From what I’ve learned working with trafficked youth over the past few months, part of the problem lies in the fact that many kids prefer the streets to foster placements, which often impose strict rules and services the kids just aren’t interested in. The teens (particularly the older ones) may struggle to connect with their caregivers and advocates, and would rather be among their chosen folk in a looser, more familiar environment. Overcoming the effects of grooming is also a major challenge; as I’ve unfortunately witnessed, recovered runaways are prone to return to their traffickers at the earliest chance they get. This is where HTCE and organizations like UAHT, Unbound Houston, and Harris County Youth Collective (HCYC) get it really right: by focusing on community awareness and offering resources for kids involved with the system outside the system. 

Part of HTCE’s efforts—like those of other worthy local organizations—have involved providing outreach and education on human trafficking at the community level. Over the past year, these groups have trained thousands of people on how to recognize and prevent trafficking in their communities, established safe spaces for victims and families, and built databases for connecting individuals with the resources they need most (See: the 2020 Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force Report). HCYC’s Youth & Community Specialists offer mentorship and counseling to young people from a lived-experience perspective; they understand what these kids are going through (and what their particular needs may be) because they’ve actually been through it themselves. This community-based work is vital to harm prevention and improving outcomes for kids in foster care, especially those most susceptible to exploitation. 

It’s about empowering youth to commit to their own futures and creating environments conducive to staying on that well-lit path. That means giving these kids resources they’ll actually want to partake of, equipping locals with the necessary tools, and creating a community prepared to fight to keep their young people safe. In this way, we can work toward making the mean streets of Houston a better place to be.