Arizona State University swimmer Grant House and Oregon women’s basketball player Sedona Prince are suing the NCAA and the Power 5 conferences in a class-action lawsuit seeking injunction and damages for alleged antitrust violations regarding profits from the use of student-athletes’ names, images and likenesses.
The duo is being represented by law firm Hagens Berman, which has represented classes of college students before and achieved successful outcomes. The firm won a $208 million settlement against the NCAA concerning antitrust-related student scholarship limits, a combined $60 million settlement against Electronic Arts and the NCAA regarding player likeness rights in videogames, among others.
The new lawsuit, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Oakland Division, accuses the NCAA, Pacific-12 Conference, the Big Ten Conference, the Big Twelve Conference, Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference of limiting the compensation that Division I college athletes may receive for the use of their names, images, likenesses and athletic reputations. It alleges that the defendants violated federal antitrust laws by upholding NCAA rules that prohibit that compensation.
The lawsuit “seeks to hold the NCAA accountable” to college athletes via injunction and damages for the NCAA’s antitrust violations regulating the profits gained from the use of college athletes’ names, images and likenesses, specifically:
- An injunction voiding rules prohibiting compensation to college athletes for use of their name, image and likeness.
- A damages class based on payments college athletes would have received if not for the NCAA’s restraints. These revenues would be for payments that would have been made to use NCAA athletes’ images on social media platforms and revenues from group licenses that would have been negotiated by each school
House, who took an Olympic redshirt in anticipation of the now-postponed Tokyo Olympics, says that NCAA rules impact potentially Olympic-bound athletes more negatively than those in other sports.
“The way the rules are right now, the NCAA puts college athletes who are shooting for the Olympics at a huge disadvantage to other athletes training to compete,” House said. “Our ability to fund our Olympic training efforts are essentially squashed by the NCAA’s rules on name, image and likeness. While Olympic athletes in general rely heavily on endorsements and other image deals to afford the cost of competing and training, the NCAA shuts us out of that opportunity entirely.”
According to the lawsuit, the specific dollar amount the plaintiffs will be seeking in damages has not yet been ascertained. It says that House has been heavily involved in ASU’s social media campaigns, however.
Notably, House and his brother also run a swimming-related podcast, and last week landed the Barstool Sports talking head known as PFTCommenter as a guest — it’s not hard to imagine that the show could be a potential revenue stream without the existing NCAA rules.
In April, the NCAA announced that it would move to “modernize” name-image-likeness rules for student-athletes by 2020-21, agreeing to allow athletes to receive compensation for things like social media, personal businesses and personal appearances, provided they fall under a set of guiding principles established by the board. The NCAA release made clear that schools are still not allowed to pay athletes, but athletes can now earn money from third parties in certain cases.
Since then, commissioners of the Power 5 conferences have appealed to the United States Congress to enact federal, national legislation on the matter ahead of the NCAA’s new rules.