Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association v. Brentwood Academy

551 U.S. 291, 127 S. Ct. 2489, 168 L. Ed. 2d 166 (2007)

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Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association v. Brentwood Academy

United States Supreme Court
551 U.S. 291, 127 S. Ct. 2489, 168 L. Ed. 2d 166 (2007)

EL

Facts

Brentwood Academy (plaintiff) sued the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association (TSSAA) (defendant) in federal court over TSSAA’s enforcement of a rule preventing the recruitment of middle school athletes. Brentwood voluntarily joined the TSSAA, a not-for-profit organization that regulated many public and private high schools in Tennessee. When Brentwood joined the TSSAA, it agreed to follow TSSAA’s antirecruiting rules, which prevented high schools from recruiting individual middle school students. TSSAA created these rules to prevent the exploitation of children, to prioritize academics over sports, and to promote fair competition among schools. Despite Brentwood’s status as a TSSAA member, its head football coach solicited talented eighth-grade athletes with a personal letter inviting the boys to attend practices and signed the letter, “Your Coach.” TSSAA sanctioned Brentwood Academy after conducting an investigation, holding meetings and a hearing on the issue, and providing a written determination. TSSAA also held a review of the sanction. Brentwood sued TSSAA in federal court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming TSSAA acted as a state actor and violated Brentwood’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Initially, the federal district court granted Brentwood’s motion for summary judgment and enjoined enforcement of the antirecruitment rules. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed, finding that TSSAA was not a state actor. The United States Supreme Court reversed, holding TSSAA was a state actor for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On remand, the Sixth Circuit sent the case back to the federal district court, which focused its review on Brentwood’s claim that the sanction violated due process and Brentwood’s First Amendment rights. For a second time, the lower court ruled in favor of Brentwood. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. TSSAA appealed, and the Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Stevens, J.)

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