A landmark royalties battle between the NCAA and men’s college basketball and football players of the past and present must go to trial over the athletes’ claims of rights to use of their names and images.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled Friday that current and former student athletes are entitled to a federal trial to resolve whether the NCAA must share its commercial revenue with athletes for use of the names and images in TV and in video games.
The trial is set for June 9 in Oakland.
Former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon is the lead plaintiff in a class action filed by two dozen current and former college players.
Video game developer Electronic Arts settled the athletes’ claims for $40 million in 2013, but the NCAA held out, denying the athletes had any rights to money, arguing instead that the money funds sports programs and scholarships for the ballplayers.
NCAA: But we Helped Women
One of five “pro-competitive” justifications the NCAA used for its rules prohibiting student athletes from receiving pay for use of their names was its increased support for women’s sports and bolstering of less prominent men’s sports. Wilken rejected this claim outright.
“Plaintiffs are entitled to summary judgment that the NCAA’s fourth asserted justification for the challenged restraint – increased support for women’s sports and less prominent men’s sports – is not legitimately procompetitive,” she said.
In addition to the failed “increased support of women” argument, the NCAA argued it acted with procompetitive justifications that outweighed any anticompetitive restraint, including: preservation of amateurism in college sports, promoting balance among college teams, integration of education and athletics and greater output of Division one sports.
The plaintiffs argued that the NCAA restrained competition by preventing Division I schools from offering recruits a share of money they receive from broadcasting and videogame licenses.
Wilken found they presented enough evidence to support an interference that the restraint was anticompetitive.
The NCAA did not dispute that most of the student athletes were never compensated for use of their images and former players are unlikely to receive any money for their appearance in videogames or in rebroadcasts of past games, Wilken said.
The players first brought the lawsuits in 2009 claiming antitrust violations by the NCAA.
They allege the NCAA engaged in anti-competitive conduct and conspired to sell or licenses names, images and likenesses of football and basketball players without their consent, for use in live TV broadcasts, archival game footage and NCAA-branded videogames
Case: In re NCAA Student-Athlete Name & Likeness Licensing, No. C09-1967CW