Athletes Shouldn't Win Class Status, NCAA Says
OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - Class certification is improper for college athletes who say they were denied a chance to license their names, images or likenesses, the National Collegiate Athletic Association argued.
The federal antitrust case, led by former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon, accuses the NCAA, Electronic Arts and College Licensing Co. of orchestrating a price-fixing conspiracy and group boycott.
Athletes say that the NCAA forces them to sign away the rights to their own images, cheating them out of a share in the profits from TV broadcasts and video game sales that used their names and images.
A hearing on the athletes' motion for class certification is scheduled for June 20 in front of U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken.
In its argument against class certification, the NCAA claim that the athletes provided no evidence to support their claims "that NCAA amateurism rules illegally 'restrain' current SAs [student athletes] from selling broadcast or video game 'group licenses.'"
The NCAA says that the athletes have not shown that such "licenses" actually exist or could even legally exist. Nor have the athletes provided any evidence that members of the putative class would be paid for these licenses if the NCAA's amateurism rules were eliminated, according to the NCAA's reply.
"Instead, APs [antitrust plaintiffs] argue that the lack of evidence is immaterial, because the new liability theories do not require evidence," the filing states. "APs now claim certification is warranted based solely on the hypothetical and highly speculative opinions of their experts that, in the but-for-world, the NCAA and/or its membership would have adopted rules requiring that broadcast revenues be shared equally with class members."
The court cannot, per the athletes' request, "certify a class of all Division I men's basketball and FBS football SAs, regardless of whether those SAs actually had any pertinent NIL [names, images, or likenesses] rights under their states' laws, regardless of whether those SAs' purported NIL rights were actually 'used,' and regardless of whether defendants were responsible for SAs' alleged failure to be paid for any purported use," the NCAA wrote (emphasis in original).
The NCAA argues that the athletes lack common evidence to support certification, and that "their failure to provide such evidence on fundamental elements of the class members' antitrust claims is fatal to their motion."