SBD/Issue 124/Collegiate Sports

Former College BBall Players Join Suit Over NCAA's Use Of Likeness

Several Players From Texas Western's National
Championship Team Join Suit Against NCAA

Several former men's college basketball players have "joined a class-action antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA and partner Collegiate Licensing over revenue those entities produce by selling players' images and likenesses in video content and other memorabilia," according to Marlen Garcia of USA TODAY. Among the former players to join the suit are Texas Western's Harry Flournoy and David Lattin, Kentucky's Thad Jaracz, Michigan's Eric Riley and Indiana State's Alex Gilbert. Previously, former Arizona State QB Sam Keller and former UCLA F Ed O'Bannon "were the only named plaintiffs." Flournoy said, "I don't think it's fair that a person is out of college, in my case for 40 years, and the (NCAA) can make millions off your image and you get nothing for it." But NCAA Dir of Public & Media Relations Erik Christianson said in an e-mail, "That the NCAA violates antitrust laws because it somehow prevents former student-athletes from capitalizing on their collegiate images or likenesses is fiction." Meanwhile, Riley said that he wrote to Jon King, a "lead attorney for the players," and "asked to join" the lawsuit. Riley said that when he played in the NBA he "signed a waiver allowing the league to use his image," and that in return he "received about $50,000 to $60,000 a season in royalties." Riley: "There is a system to pay players. The (NCAA) won't do it unless someone forces them" (USA TODAY, 3/11). Gilbert said of the NCAA, "For some reason, nobody touches these guys. They get away with robbery" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 3/11).

IMPACT ON CASE: In N.Y., Katie Thomas notes while the new plaintiffs "do not change the substance of the lawsuit," Michael Hausfeld, an attorney for the former players, said that their participation "bolsters the case." Hausfeld: "I think this is going to be a vivid illustration of the support among former student-athletes for no longer tolerating abuse by the NCAA." But Christianson in an e-mail said the number of plaintiffs "does not change the fact that the NCAA does not license student-athlete likenesses or prevent former student-athletes from attempting to do so" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/11).

LOSING ARGUMENT? SI.com's Frank Deford wrote the "outlook is bleak" for the NCAA. The decision in '08 to "award retired NFL players compensation for the use of their likeness in video games must surely hang over the NCAA's head." Deford: "If old pros should be paid for the appropriation of their personages, why shouldn't old collegians?" King said that he "can only imagine the NCAA's defense being 'a protection of amateurism.'" But Deford wrote in the "last four decades or so, that old-world, upper-class concept has been abandoned in virtually all other high-profile, big-money sports." Deford: "It simply seems illogical that American college football and basketball players still must lift the bale and tote the barge of amateurism by themselves" (SI.com, 3/10).

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