The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees, among other things, the right to free speech. The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees, among other things, that no State shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. Some NCAA Division I schools are now requiring student athletes to give up their right to free speech by banning the use of social media as a condition of playing a sport and receiving an athletic scholarship. Alternatively, some entire collegiate athletic departments permit student-athletes to use social media, but have gone so far as to contract with outside vendors to monitor the social media activity of student athletes. This is accomplished by requiring the students to “friend” the vendor’s social media pages so the vendor can track all activity of the student athlete, as well as any photos, comments, tags or other mentions of the student athlete on his or her friends’ pages. Some student-athletes have argued against the bans and/or against the monitoring of their social media activity, stating that they are being treated differently from non student-athletes (whose social media activity is not banned or monitored) at their colleges or universities. Discuss each of the following questions: Is this a permissible curtailment of a First Amendment right? Why or not? Is this a permissible classification under the Equal Protection Clause? Why or not? Are there contractual issues involved? If so, what are they? If not, why not? Are your answers to the questions different for student-athletes at Villanova University (a private university) than they are for student-athletes at the University of North Carolina (a public university)? If so, why? If not, why not?
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