NCAA athletes file class action against broadcasters

Posted on: December 11th, 2014 by Steve Larson

Fotolia BasketballSeveral former college football and men’s basketball players have filed an antitrust class action against broadcasters and others.  The complaint alleges that the defendants have illegally used athletes’ names, images and likenesses in television and radio broadcasts.  The defendants include nearly all of the national over-the-air and cable television networks that have significant live college sports programming, the five largest conferences, and the nation’s two largest college-sports multi-media and marketing rights companies.

The suit was filed in a U.S. District Court in Nashville.

This case is the first to include television networks as defendants, but is similar to other suits relating to the use of college athletes’ names and likenesses.

A waiver form may be at the center of the litigation.  The plaintiffs allege that a NCAA name-and-likeness waiver form, which college athletes had been asked to sign until the association eliminated it this school year, “is invalid or otherwise unenforceable.” Athletes who signed the release had granted permission for the NCAA or an associated third party, such as a school or conference, to use his or her name or picture to promote NCAA championships or other events without being compensated.

The form became an issue in the Ed O’Bannon antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA, which involved colleges’ use of athletes’ names, images and likenesses in ways including live television broadcasts. NCAA officials maintained that athletes were not required to sign the form, but at least two college officials testified in the O’Bannon case that they believed the forms were mandatory.