EUGENE — The NCAA filed a motion to dismiss a federal antitrust lawsuit by Oregon women’s basketball player Sedona Prince and Arizona State swimmer Grant House that seeks damages related to the use of their name, image and likeness.
In a 28-page filing in the North District of California on Friday, lawyers for the NCAA argue the lawsuits brought by Prince and House, which sought unspecified damages for television revenue and social media earnings, as well as a separate case filed by Tymir Oliver should be dismissed with prejudice because they “fail to state a claim against Defendants upon which relief may be granted” based on the rulings in the Alston and O’Bannon cases.
“They assert that potential future changes to NCAA rules relating to NIL require invalidation of all compensation limits — a claim expressly rejected by the Ninth Circuit in Alston,” write Beth A. Wilkinson, one of the NCAA’s lawyers.
One of the primary tenets of the NCAA’s argument for a dismissal of the Prince case if that college athletes “have no cognizable NIL rights in game broadcasts” and therefore cannot seek damages based on a share of television rights revenues generated by the NCAA or the Power 5 conferences, which are co-defendants.
“For almost a century, judicial decisions and state statutes have uniformly recognized that the right to license an event vests exclusively in the promoter or producer of the event,” the NCAA’s motion reads. “Courts have viewed the broadcast right as an exclusive property right for producers. … Defendants know of no court decision or statute that supports the existence of a right of publicity in a game broadcast.”
The Prince lawsuit sought damages related to NIL as a class action that would cover athletes who played in any of the last four years and going forward. The NCAA contends the O’Bannon and Alston cases deemed limits to such compensation were legal.
“The complaints do not plausibly allege either the existence of any market for group licensing of student-athletes’ NIL rights in broadcasts of games, or how the challenged restraints have significantly harmed competition in such a market,” the NCAA’s motion reads. “… As flawed as Plaintiffs’ injunctive relief claims are, their claims for money damages are even more plainly without merit. Plaintiffs seek money damages purportedly suffered by them and the putative class members over the past four years as a result of the application of the NCAA rules the Ninth Circuit expressly deemed legally valid in O’Bannon just five years ago, based on arguments expressly rejected by the Ninth Circuit in Alston less than four months ago.”
A hearing on the matter before judge Claudia Wilken is scheduled for Nov. 18.
The NCAA and the Power Five conferences are crafting NIL legislation, with revised proposals due by the end of October and final proposals to be voted on during the annual NCAA Convention in January. They are also seeking assistance from Congress for national legislation and NCAA president Mark Emmert, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and several university presidents and athletic directors appeared before Congress during two separate hearings on NIL this summer.
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden is among a group of 10 U.S. Senators formulating a College Athletes Bill of Rights that will encompass NIL as well as long-term health care and other topics, which is expected to be voted on before the NCAA’s new NIL compensation rules go into effect next July.
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Florida signed an NIL law that will go into effect in June 2021 and California’s Fair Pay to Play law will go into effect in 2023.