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Morning news brief

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

College athletics are about to change.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The National Collegiate Athletics Association, the NCAA, agreed to settle a big lawsuit. So did the nation's five biggest athletic conferences. They will pay nearly $2.8 billion to settle antitrust suits by former student athletes. If the agreement goes through, schools can pay their athletes directly.

INSKEEP: Jesse Dougherty of The Washington Post has been covering this story, and he joins us very, very, very, very early. Good morning, sir.

JESSE DOUGHERTY: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Who gets the $2.8 billion?

DOUGHERTY: Two-point-eight billion dollars is mostly going to past athletes, and among that group it's mostly going to power conference football and men's basketball players. That's the biggest class there. They sued basically over the use of their name, image and likeness in past television broadcast, for not being compensated for that. So the damages are going back to their way for being on TV and playing their sports over the years.

INSKEEP: OK. So you remind us about the name, image and likeness rules which changed - have changed over the last several years. Now we have this finding, as part of this lawsuit, that colleges can just pay athletes. How does this transform college sports?

DOUGHERTY: Yeah. So now schools will pay athletes directly, which is a seismic shift in this landscape when you consider that for as long as the NCAA has been around, one of its sole purposes has been to make sure athletes do not get paid by the schools. How it actually changes the games in practice, when you're actually between the lines on the quarter field - I'm not sure it will too much, but it will definitely change how athletic departments have to budget, how schools have to budget, how athletes get paid and what kind of money they'll make on campus. So the changes are far reaching, and we're still going to - we're still learning how it's going to look. And it remains to be seen exactly what - you know, how that will scale. But it certainly changes the foundation of this whole thing.

INSKEEP: Yeah. I mean, one thing I'm curious about is the amount of money we're talking about. I grant that a lot of money is made by college sports. I'm interested in how this will translate to athletes. Will they get paid millions of dollars as they would in pro leagues, or will it be more of a nominal payment? I mean, what's the sense?

DOUGHERTY: I would think of it more as a salary that's not sort of in those high, high professional numbers. So basically there's going to be a capped amount of revenue sharing per school. Right now, it seems like that's going to be around the $20 million range per year. But that's not just for a football roster. That's for a lot of athletes on campus. So for athletes to make in those six, seven figures - like, the big money that we're seeing right now, like, with the NIL payments - that's going to take major endorsement deals, major deals with boosters, potentially. This revenue-sharing money will more just equalize the earnings across rosters and in some cases across athletic departments, depending on how it's implemented by schools.

INSKEEP: Oh, well, this raises a question for me. What happens with the lacrosse team or some team that doesn't have a lot of revenue coming in, or what happens with the athletes at Morehead State University in Kentucky, where I went to college, and it's not one of the big, big programs?

DOUGHERTY: That's a great question. Yeah, for the lacrosse team, you know, they will see - schools will decide how they actually balance their budgets. We don't know 'cause it's not actually just going to be standard across the board. And then for the smaller schools, this revenue-sharing model will be optional. At the big schools, schools will opt into it 'cause it will be required to remain competitive, but at the smaller, lower revenue levels, you'll see a lot of conferences in schools saying, you know, we're not going to do this or we're not going to take part in this revenue-sharing model.

INSKEEP: Jesse Dougherty, The Washington Post - all very clear. Thank you very much.

DOUGHERTY: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: Louisiana lawmakers have voted to classify two drugs as dangerous controlled substances.

INSKEEP: They acted because one of the ways these drugs are used is to induce abortions, which Louisiana has banned in most cases. The new law is expected to make it harder to access and prescribe these pills, and it is the first of its kind in the country.

MARTIN: Rosemary Westwood, at member station WWNO in New Orleans, is with us now to tell us more about this. Good morning, Rosemary.

ROSEMARY WESTWOOD, BYLINE: Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: So why this decision to reclassify these drugs as dangerous and controlled substances?

WESTWOOD: State officials have been frustrated by residents who go online to order pills to induce an abortion. To crack down on that, they've opted for this designation to make them harder to get. The experts I've spoken with tell me that Louisiana has the right to designate a drug by making a general finding that it's a public health risk, as they've done here. We don't know if this will be challenged in the courts, though. So some controlled substances are illegal, like heroin, and others have various medical uses but carry a risk of addiction, so drugs like Xanax and opioids and psychiatric meds. These are known as scheduled drugs or controlled substances. And so they're a little harder to get on purpose. Doctors need a special license to prescribe them, and they're tracked in state databases. And if you have these drugs without a prescription, you can face thousands of dollars in fines and jail time.

MARTIN: So what are state lawmakers saying about this move? And the reason I ask that is that these drugs would not seem to meet those two criteria. They are not addicting, and they do have a legitimate medical use. So what are they saying about this?

WESTWOOD: Well, Republicans and anti-abortion rights groups say this is necessary to keep women and girls safe, to discourage them from getting the pills mailed from out of state or passing them along to each other. The bill's sponsor was Republican state Senator Thomas Pressly.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

THOMAS PRESSLY: It will be an important step to stop a dangerous industry that threatens the health of women.

WESTWOOD: But remember, these medications are still legal for other uses, so doctors are worried that reclassifying them as controlled substances is going to make these medications harder to get. And that could delay care.

MARTIN: Say more about these other medical uses. Can you give some examples?

WESTWOOD: Yeah. They're used every day in miscarriages, to treat hemorrhage after childbirth, to insert an IUD. And that's why almost 300 doctors across the state sent a letter pleading with legislators not to do this. Under this law, doctors will be tracked in a database every time they write a prescription for mifepristone or misoprostol. And pharmacists - I mean, in Louisiana, some have already been more hesitant to dispense these drugs. Dr. William Kirchain is a pharmacist with Xavier University. He says these pills are not like other Schedule IV drugs like tramadol or Valium. The main difference is mifepristone and misoprostol, as you said, are not addictive.

WILLIAM KIRCHAIN: They are certainly outliers. They really don't have any relationship to the other drugs in Schedule IV.

WESTWOOD: But he says Louisiana does have the power to reclassify the drugs in this way, which means that other states could potentially try to do this, too.

MARTIN: So what happens now?

WESTWOOD: Well, this law will go into effect. The governor still has to sign it, but he's said he supports it, and it's not clear if it will stop pregnant women ordering the pills because they are specifically exempted from prosecution. Anyone else caught with these medications, though, without a valid prescription, could face up to 10 years in prison.

MARTIN: That's Rosemary Westwood at WWNO in New Orleans. Rosemary, thank you.

WESTWOOD: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: The Justice Department says it's time for a breakup of Ticketmaster and its owner, Live Nation.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BAD BLOOD")

TAYLOR SWIFT: (Singing) 'Cause, baby, now we got bad blood. You know it used to be mad love.

MARTIN: And you know you know about this story because of Taylor Swift, whose recent tour crashed the Ticketmaster website and drew attention to the company's ticket prices. Now the federal government, 29 states and the District of Columbia are suing the company. They call it a monopoly.

INSKEEP: NPR's Alina Selyukh is here in our Studio 31. It's a live event. We would have had a crowd, but the demand crashed the website. It's a long story. But anyway, it's good to see you, Alina. Good morning.

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: Good morning, good morning.

INSKEEP: OK, Alina's microphone does not seem to be working here, so let's try this one more time. NPR's Alina Selyukh is just across the room from us here. If this doesn't work - are people not hearing you? You should come...

SELYUKH: All right.

INSKEEP: There we go. All right.

SELYUKH: Good morning.

INSKEEP: There we go.

SELYUKH: We did it.

INSKEEP: Good morning. Live, live, live - that's what we are. OK, so why is this a monopoly?

SELYUKH: So the Department of Justice says Ticketmaster/Live Nation has tentacles in every part of live entertainment. It sells tickets. It promotes shows. It owns venues. It manages musical acts. And it also has oversight over how people get to buy tickets to these shows and what fees they have to pay. No other competitor comes anywhere close to this kind of size, and the government argues that means higher prices and generally a worse experience for both artists and fans.

INSKEEP: What's the evidence?

SELYUKH: So the lawsuit cites a few examples, a lot of which actually echo what we heard last year in a Senate hearing. For example, New York musician Clyde Lawrence testified that artists who have to perform at Live Nation venues have to hire Live Nation as a promoter, which gives them little leverage.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CLYDE LAWRENCE: If they want to take 10% of the revenues and call it a facility fee they can and have. And if they want to charge us $250 for a stack of 10 clean towels, they can and have.

SELYUKH: The case argues also that Live Nation has venues feel - venue operators feeling pressured to sign onto Ticketmaster because they don't want to lose out on concert tours run by Live Nation. At the hearing, one venue owner pointed out that the company even profits from selling tickets to competitors, sort of like Pepsi earning money from Coke.

INSKEEP: Just to be clear - for this event here this morning in Studio 31, the towels are free.

SELYUKH: (Laughter) OK.

INSKEEP: I didn't actually realize how widespread Live Nation's reach was in the industry. What does the company say for itself?

SELYUKH: Live Nation argues that none of the typical frustrations people talk about about things like fees or availability of tickets - that it would be resolved by breaking up the company. It said the artists set the ticket prices before fees, that production costs are constantly going up and that ticket scalpers are really the menace of the industry. The company overall argues the Justice Department is veering away from many of the same things it had considered and approved back in 2010, when the government approved the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster in the first place.

INSKEEP: Oh, this is very interesting. So not so many years ago, the U.S. government said this blending of companies was OK. How...

SELYUKH: With a lot of conditions. There were a lot of conditions put on the deal, and now the government says those conditions did not put the gates around this deal as much as it should have.

INSKEEP: Yeah. Help us assess the case. How strong is the government's case?

SELYUKH: So the onus here is on the government. It will take years to shake out. I do want to add the Biden administration is pursuing a number of these big anti-monopoly cases against major corporations like Amazon, Google and Apple. This is a rare case where it's directly asking to break up the company, and it's asking for a jury trial, which is unusual for those complex antitrust cases. Perhaps the government assumes we all are familiar with Ticketmaster, Live Nation and the murky...

INSKEEP: There's a Taylor Swift...

SELYUKH: ...World of concert tickets.

INSKEEP: There's going to be a Swiftie among the 12, and that's going to affect things. Could that actually be part of their thinking?

SELYUKH: Maybe.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) OK. NPR's Alina Selyukh, thanks for coming by.

SELYUKH: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
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