A federal judge yesterday denied the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s motion to dismiss an antitrust class action over the use of student-athletes’ images and likenesses, and a legal team for the athletes is celebrating getting the “green light” to delve into discovery.
“We think it’s a historic ruling because no one, to our knowledge, has ever been able to look at the financial records of the NCAA and all of its hundreds of member schools and conferences to total up the value of the merchandise they’re selling,” said Jon King, a partner in Hausfeld’s San Francisco office and the players’ lead attorney.
The class action was filed by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon last July. Among other allegations, the suit says the NCAA works together with Collegiate Licensing Company and a video-game company to distribute products using players’ images without compensating them. In her order, Northern District Judge Claudia Wilken wrote that O’Bannon’s allegations “sufficiently support O’Bannon’s theory that, after NCAA and its members obtain releases from student athletes, CLC brokers agreements that do not compensate him or the putative class members for the use of their images. This demonstrates CLC’s role in the alleged conspiracy.”
King said the legal team started the suit with the two groups of athletes who generate the highest revenue, but that other sports are growing ever more popular and increasingly driving products the NCAA sells. “We view this really as just the beginning, and that more antitrust cases will follow on this,” he said.
— Kate Moser