NCAA Calls Athlete Class Claims Doomed

The NCAA’s licensing arm and gamemaker Electronic Arts attacked efforts by former college athletes Thursday to win class certification for their claims the NCAA violated their publicity rights and colluded not to pay them for use of their images.

“Plaintiffs’ theory of antitrust conspiracy against EA and CLC [Collegiate Licensing Co.] is that they agreed to follow the NCAA’s rules,” the lawyers for NCAA argued in court papers.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken is scheduled to hear arguments June 20 on whether to certify a class of former college athletes whose images or names were used in EA videogames or in other products licensed by the NCAA.

If Wilken grants the class certification it would open the case to potentially thousands of athletes who would argue they were denied pay for use of their images by the NCAA, even after they left college and were no longer subject to NCAA amateurism rules.

Papers filed Thursday argue the class suit is fatally flawed by statements of the former football and basketball players in the case.

Following NCAA rules cannot create an antitrust conspiracy, they argue.

“Rather than address this fundamental failure in their conspiracy theory, Plaintiffs argue that EA and CLC participated in ‘one overarching conspiracy’ that includes television broadcast, or failing that, participated in a ‘separate broadcast conspiracy,’” the NCAA states.

The NCAA also said, whether EA used avatars with the names and likenesses of actual players “will be hotly disputed.”

The former college players have filed numerous suits claiming they have been denied the ability to control the use of their names and likenesses by NCAA rules that control the rights in perpetuity.

Case:  Keller v. Electronic Arts, No. C09-1967CW