By Dan Levine
SAN FRANCISCO Nov 9 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
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
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
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
The NCAA had argued that the lawsuit should not be certified
as a class action because some stars would earn much more than
other athletes, thus setting up a conflict of interest. The law
requires that class action plaintiffs should adequately
represent the entire group without conflicts.
Wilken rejected that argument, writing that the players
sought group licensing rights. "This distinction is important
because it renders irrelevant any differences in the value of
each class member's individual publicity rights," Wilken wrote.
However, she found that for purposes of damages, the
plaintiffs had not come up with a manageable way to figure out
which individual players had actually been harmed by the NCAA's
The NCAA could attempt to appeal Wilken's ruling.
The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of
California is In Re NCAA Student-Athlete Name & Likeness
Licensing Litigation, 09-1967.