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COURT ISSUES LANDMARK DECISION DENYING THE NCAA’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND NARROWING THE ISSUES FOR TRIAL
WASHINGTON, DC, April 11, 2014 - In a landmark decision today in In re NCAA Student-Athlete Name and Likeness Licensing Litigation (N.D. Cal.), Chief District Judge Claudia Wilken denied the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) motion for summary judgment; granted in part and denied in part the Antitrust Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment; and narrowed the issues for trial in June 2014.
In denying the NCAA's motion for summary judgment, the Court squarely rejected the NCAA's argument that the First Amendment "bar[s] Division I student-athletes from selling group licenses to use their names, images and likenesses in live or recorded broadcasts of entire college football and basketball games." Elsewhere in the 48-page opinion, the Court noted that the NCAA had not presented evidence of any procompetitive justification for its alleged conduct that might entitle the NCAA to summary adjudication. While the NCAA had argued that its refusal to permit compensation for the use of student-athlete names, images, and likenesses nevertheless promotes competitive balance among schools, the Court clarified that at trial the NCAA will have to present specific evidence that its challenged conduct "promotes a level of competitive balance that (1) contributes to consumer demand for Division I football and basketball and (2) could not be achieved through less restrictive means." As for the NCAA's assertion that the challenged conduct promotes the integration of education and athletics, the NCAA "must present evidence [at trial] to show that (1) the ban on student-athlete compensation actually contributes to the integration of education and athletics and (2) the integration of education and athletics enhances competition in the 'college education' or 'group licensing' market."
The Antitrust Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, meanwhile, was granted in part, eliminating one of the NCAA's proposed procompetitive justifications at trial. According to the Court, "the challenged restraint" - a conspiracy to restrain competition in the market for the commercial use of student-athletes' names, images and likenesses in Division I football and basketball - "is not justified by the NCAA's claimed desire to support women's sports or less prominent men's sports."
"This is a historic moment for student-athletes, and today's decision brings us one step closer to justice for our clients. After five years of litigation, we are eager to try this case and look forward to doing so," said Michael Hausfeld, Chairman, Hausfeld LLP and lead attorney for the plaintiffs.
For more information, please contact Michael Hausfeld (firstname.lastname@example.org), Hilary Scherrer (email@example.com), or Sathya Gosselin (firstname.lastname@example.org).