College athletes can seek cut of TV money: U.S. judge

Sat Nov 9, 2013 3:44pm EST
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By Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A lawsuit brought by college athletes seeking television and videogame revenue can move forward, a U.S. judge has ruled, in a case that seeks to reshape traditional notions of sports amateurism in the United States.

In a decision on Friday, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland, California, ruled that a group of players could sue the National Collegiate Athletic Association as a class action, in an effort to change rules that bar athletes from earning money on their images. However, she also ruled that athletes could not seek money damages for financial losses they suffered in the past.

The lawsuit takes on the highly lucrative business of college athletics, where universities reap billions of dollars from men's football and basketball, but players are not allowed to profit.

Filed in 2009, the case seeks to create a new system where broadcasting and videogame revenue would go into a fund. Players would not get a cut of it while they were actively playing, but they would get money after they were no longer NCAA-eligible, said Sathya Gosselin, an attorney for the athletes.

"The NCAA has long decried this litigation as threatening college sports as we know it, when in fact the relief sought here is narrow," Gosselin said.

Representatives for the NCAA were not available to comment.

Over 20 current and former athletes sued the NCAA, alleging that it violated federal antitrust law by conspiring with videogame maker Electronic Arts Inc and the NCAA's licensing arm to restrain competition in the market for the commercial use of the players' names, images, and likenesses.

The athletes also had originally sued EA, which recently settled.   Continued...