Brentwood Academy v. Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Assn., 531 U.S. 288 (2001)

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288

OCTOBER TERM, 2000

Syllabus

BRENTWOOD ACADEMY v. TENNESSEE SECONDARY SCHOOL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION et al.

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the sixth circuit

No. 99-901. Argued October 11, 2000—Decided February 20, 2001

Respondent not-for-profit athletic association (Association) regulates interscholastic sport among Tennessee public and private high schools. Most of the State's public high schools are members, representing 84% of the Association's membership. School officials make up the voting membership of the Association's governing council and control board, which typically hold meetings during regular school hours. The Association is largely funded by gate receipts. Association staff, although not state employees, may join the state retirement system. The Association sets membership standards and student eligibility rules and has the power to penalize any member school that violates those rules. The State Board of Education (State Board) has long acknowledged the Association's role in regulating interscholastic competition in public schools, and its members sit as nonvoting members of the Association's governing bodies. When the Association penalized petitioner Brent-wood Academy for violating a recruiting rule, Brentwood sued the Association and its executive director under 42 U. S. C. 1983, claiming that the rule's enforcement was state action that violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The District Court granted Brentwood summary judgment, enjoining the rule's enforcement, but the Sixth Circuit found no state action and reversed.

Held: The Association's regulatory activity is state action owing to the pervasive entwinement of state school officials in the Association's structure, there being no offsetting reason to see the Association's acts in any other way. Pp. 295-305.

(a) State action may be found only if there is such a "close nexus between the State and the challenged action" that seemingly private behavior "may be fairly treated as that of the State itself." Jackson v. Metropolitan Edison Co., 419 U. S. 345, 351. No one fact is a necessary condition for finding state action, nor is any set of circumstances sufficient, for there may be some countervailing reason against attributing activity to the government. The facts that can bear on an attribution's fairness—e. g., a nominally private entity may be a state actor when it is entwined with governmental policies or when government is en-

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