NCAA athletes’ rights in dispute in court filing
by Steve Berkowitz, USA TODAY Sports
Lawyers representing former and current college football and men’s basketball players in an anti-trust lawsuit said in documents filed Thursday that the NCAA says it does not obtain permission from athletes to use their names, images and likenesses in various ways, including live TV broadcasts.
The lawyers suggested that this “admission,” as the lawyers termed it, means that athletes should get what essentially amounts to back-pay once they complete their college careers.
Thursday’s filing also revealed that the athletes’ lawyers have told conferences across the country that the NCAA’s position potentially makes the conferences’ mega-dollar TV contracts unlawful. If the athletes – rather than the NCAA and its members — own the rights to their names, images and likenesses, the lawyers said, then the conferences do not possess the rights they are selling to broadcasters.
The documents were filed in U.S. District Court in California as part of a bid by the athletes’ lawyers to have the lawsuit certified as a class action.
The suit seeks damages from the NCAA; video-game maker Electronic Arts; and Collegiate Licensing Co., the nation’s leading collegiate trademark licensing and marketing firm. The 15 named plaintiffs, including former basketball stars Ed O’Bannon, Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell, say their names, images and likenesses were used illegally by the NCAA.
They allege that the defendants violated anti-trust law by conspiring to fix at zero the amount of compensation athletes can receive for the use of their names, images and likenesses in products or media while they are in school and by requiring athletes to sign forms under which they relinquish in perpetuity all rights pertaining to the use of the names, images and likenesses in ways including TV contracts, rebroadcasts of games, and video game, jersey and other apparel sales.
The NCAA and the other defendants have contended the case should not be certified as a class action, in part, because the plaintiffs have recently adopted legal approaches to their case that are fundamentally different from those cited in the plaintiffs’ underlying complaint. Among those differences, the defendants said, is the plaintiffs’ assertion that the athletes are entitled to damages based on … [For more on NCAA athletes' rights in dispute in court filing, click here.]