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Frank LoMonte Comments on Supreme Court Case That Could Limit Student Athletes’ First Amendment Rights

Frank LoMonte, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications Brechner Center for Freedom of Information director, is quoted in “’Angry Cheerleader’ Case Could Chill NCAA Athletes’ Protests” published in Law360 on May 18.

Frank LoMonte

The article focuses on a pending U.S. Supreme Court case over whether schools may discipline students for social media posts under the First Amendment, which may give public universities the ability to further restrict college athletes’ online speech.

“If the Supreme Court equips colleges with a new weapon to silence whistleblowers, they are going to use it,” said LoMonte. “They are going to use it to tell college athletes that they cannot go public with their concerns over the college athletic program.”

A survey of school policies, published in a Nebraska Law Review article co-authored by LoMonte, found that of 58 school athlete handbooks examined, 50 of them “contained some form of a gatekeeping rule restricting interactions with the media.” The article suggested the percentage could be even higher considering some coaches provide verbal warnings not to talk to the media.

“I don’t think that those policies are anywhere in the vicinity of being constitutional as the law stands today,” said LoMonte. “But the Supreme Court could upend the law. They could say that entering into a team sport to some degree waives your First Amendment rights, and if they write it broadly enough, [it] could be dangerously applied to college athletes.”

Posted: May 19, 2021
Category: News