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

Sat Nov 9, 2013 11:59pm 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.

NCAA chief legal officer Don Remy said the NCAA was pleased that Wilken removed damages from the case.

"We have long maintained that the plaintiffs in this matter are wrong on the facts and wrong on the law," Remy said in an email. "This ruling is one step closer to validating that position."

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.   Continued...