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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | Back issues
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NCAA’s Supreme Court Petition Is an Air Ball

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Supreme Court battle over college athletes' image rights may be over before it even started after the justices rejected key motions Monday.

Brewing since 2009, the case at hand involves a group of former student-athletes challenging the National Collegiate Athletic Association's use of their images in video games, merchandise and other promotional materials.

Former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon filed the first complaint in the case, alleging that the NCAA violated his and other athletes' right to make money off their likenesses.

The NCAA's licensing arm, Collegiate Licensing Co., and the video game company Electronic Arts were also named as defendants.

There are 25 named plaintiffs involved in the litigation today. Four of the athletes claim that the NCAA violated their rights of publicity by misappropriating their names and likeness, while the other 21 say the NCAA violated antitrust laws by conspiring to ensure they made no money off their likenesses.

Electronic Arts petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on Sept. 23, 2013, regarding a similar case brought by former college football quarterback Sam Keller, but three days later it and the CLC settled with the athletes.

Since the NCAA had not been involved in the appeal, it told the Supreme Court a month later that EA's settlement may mean "that there will not be a party in the Supreme Court to raise the First Amendment issues, as EA had done in the Ninth Circuit."

"The court should therefore allow the NCAA to enter the case and continue to press the important First Amendment arguments," the NCAA added.

In November, A&E Television Networks supported the NCAA's motion alongside the Associated Press, National Public Radio, Bloomberg and others.

The Supreme Court shot both the NCAA and the media groups down without comment Monday.

Seth Waxman, an attorney for the NCAA who used to serve as solicitor general, called the order "disappointing."

"But it is extremely rare for the court to grant a motion to intervene," Waxman added in a statement. "The denial does not speak to the court's views of the merits of the NCAA's First Amendment arguments. We will continue to press those arguments and our position in this important case more generally, as the case proceeds."

The athletes' third amended consolidated class complaint remains pending in the San Francisco courtroom of U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken.

Should EA withdraw its petition in light of the settlement, the NCAA says it can again ask the Supreme Court to hear the case after trial.

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