National Sports Media Quote Sarah Wake on Student-Athletes’ Legal Fight Against NCAA

February 17, 2023

ESPN and The Athletic interviewed McGuireWoods partner Sarah Wake in their coverage of a federal lawsuit brought by former college athletes who argue they should have been paid like employees.

The stories focused on Johnson v. NCAA, a case before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. A federal judge denied the NCAA’s motion to dismiss the case in August 2022, but paused the matter while the NCAA appealed his ruling to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“This particular case is flying under the radar compared to some of the others we hear about much more frequently, but it’s important,” Wake told ESPN in a Feb. 14, 2023, story.

Wake, who advises universities on athletic compliance issues, was prominently quoted in The Athletic ’s coverage of the appeals court’s Feb. 15 hearing.

“The judges definitely have a nuanced understanding of the collegiate model and the way in which it’s been shifting,” she said. “Their questions suggested that they think student-athletes should be considered employees for purposes of the Fair Labor Standards Act — at least at this stage in the case.”

Based in Chicago, Wake is a labor and employment lawyer who previously served as associate general counsel at Northwestern University and as a member of the NCAA Committee on Infractions. She told ESPN that Johnson is further along in the legal process compared to other cases challenging the NCAA’s business model. Each new case increases the odds that a challenger will succeed, she said.

“One of these things is going to stick,” Wake said. “It’s only a matter of time before something goes in favor of the student-athletes.”