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New York, Florida and DC join lawsuit against NCAA 

A bipartisan group of attorneys general want the NCAA barred from enforcing a rule that prohibits student-athletes from negotiating name, image and likeness deals prior to recruitment.  

(CN) — New York, Florida and the District of Columbia joined an existing lawsuit Wednesday against the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s name, image and likeness (NIL) policy.

The bipartisan group of attorneys general, also representing the states of Tennessee and Virginia, filed an amended complaint May 1 claiming the NCAA’s policy of prohibiting student-athletes from negotiating name, image and likeness deals prior to recruitment amounts to a violation of the Sherman Act’s antitrust statute. 

The states seek to restrict the NCAA from controlling the name, image and likeness market, which emerged after a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2021 that cleared the way for student-athletes to profit from endorsement deals. The ruling also allowed the NCAA to establish rules and states to create laws governing the practice. Since then, the parties have frequently been at odds, particularly when it comes to so-called “inducements” to athletes by name, image and likeness collectives, or boosters. 

The plaintiffs claim the NCAA’s rule “restricts students from fully understanding the options available to them before making a decision” on where to attend and therefore “reduces competition among universities and limits student athletes’ earnings and their ability to choose a college that meets their athletic and career goals.”

In court filings, the NCAA has argued the plaintiffs’ claims of harm are based on hypotheticals, noting the plaintiffs have not provided a single instance where the policy has resulted in financial harm. Additionally, the NCAA pointed out representatives from some of the plaintiff states actually participated in the NCAA’s name, image and likeness rulemaking process. 

But in February, U.S. District Court Judge Clifton L. Corker, a Donald Trump appointee, granted a preliminary injunction barring the NCAA from enforcing the rule. Corker determined “the NCAA's prohibition likely violates federal antitrust law and harms student-athletes.” He further found the plaintiffs had a strong likelihood of success on the merits of the case, while the injunction would serve the public interest and prevent irreparable harm or damages to the plaintiffs. 

In a statement Wednesday, New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, said the NCAA’s rule “limits college athletes’ potential and restricts competition among universities.”

“That’s not fair game,” James said. “Student-athletes should be able to call the shots on their career fairly and evenly.”

In a similar statement, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, a Republican, noted the NCAA recently launched investigations into name, image and likeness practices at the University of Florida and Florida State University.

“These arbitrary actions — which will have a chilling effect on the ability of Florida’s student athletes to discuss and negotiate fair NIL agreements — underscore the urgent need for today’s lawsuit,” Moody said. “It appears no one could ever comply with these ever-changing and unfair regulations that limit the ability of student athletes to negotiate in good faith.” 

name, image and likeness opportunities, whether they are offered through a collective or by individual sponsors, may include video game deals, social media promotions, merchandise, autograph sales, or licensing of their name and images, James noted. The amended complaint describes the rule as “similar to a coach looking for a new job and freely talking to many different schools, but not being able to negotiate salary until after committing to a job.”

According to one report, in the first year of the policy, “the average NCAA Division 1 athlete had received $3,711 of money through NIL while some big-name players scored six-figure deals.”

For example, University of Southern California basketball player Bronny James, the son of NBA standout LeBron James, is estimated to lead name, image and likeness earnings with more than $7 million in compensation in 2023. Other athletes, including LSU gymnast and social media star Olivia Dunne and Iowa basketball phenom Caitlin Clark earned more than $3 million each, while Texas quarterback Arch Manning collected more than $2 million. 

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Categories / Courts, Education, Sports

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