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NCAA Loses Motion to Dismiss; Athlete Antitrust Claims Proceed

Former and current student-athletes brought an action against the National Collegiate Athletic Association ("NCAA") in the U.S. Northern District of California. The athletes claim that the NCAA violated federal antitrust laws by restraining competition in the market for the licensing of the athletes' names, images and likenesses for use in videogames and broadcasts. In order to compete, the athletes were required to sign release forms allowing for such.

After the third amended class action complaint was filed, the NCAA filed a motion to dismiss, stressing that the athletes' claims were nothing more than a challenge to the NCAA's rule on amateurism. The NCAA relied on NCAA v. Board of Regents (468 U.S. 85) in this argument. Here, the judge stressed that Board of Regents focused on a different set of competitive restraints concluding that Plaintiff-athlete's claims, here, were in fact not precluded.

The NCAA also claimed that the action should be dismissed whereas student athletes, under state and federal law, lack publicity rights - i.e. have no protected name, image, or likeness rights in sport broadcasts. The court rejected this argument for two reasons. First, the NCAA failed to identify law that precludes student-athletes from asserting publicity rights. Going further, the student athletes were not precluded from asserting publicity rights under the First Amendment itself.

Plaintiffs will now be permitted to move forward with discovery.

The case is styled In re NCAA Student - Athlete Name & Likeness Licensing Litig., Case No. C 09-1967 CW (N.D. Cal.).


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