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In re NCAA Student-Athlete Litigation

In re NCAA Student-Athlete Litigation

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Published by Skip Oliva

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Published by: Skip Oliva on May 06, 2011
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05/06/2011

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTFOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIAIN RE NCAA STUDENT-ATHLETE NAME &LIKENESS LITIGATION/No. C 09-1967 CWORDER GRANTING EA’SMOTION TO DISMISSAND DENYING CLC’SAND NCAA’S MOTIONSTO DISMISS(Docket Nos. 271,273 and 274)Defendants Electronic Arts Inc. (EA), Collegiate LicensingCompany (CLC), and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)move separately to dismiss claims in this consolidated action.Plaintiffs Edward C. O’Bannon, Jr.; Harry Flournoy; Alex Gilbert;Sam Jacobson; Thad Jaracz; David Lattin; Patrick Maynor; TyroneProthro; Damien Rhodes; Eric Riley; Bob Tallent; and Danny Wimprine(collectively, Antitrust Plaintiffs) and Plaintiffs Samuel Keller;Bryan Cummings; Lamarr Watkins; and Bryon Bishop (collectively,Publicity Plaintiffs) oppose the motions directed at theirrespective claims. The motions were heard on April 7, 2011.Having considered oral argument and the papers submitted by theparties, the Court GRANTS EA’s motion and DENIES CLC’s and NCAA’smotions.BACKGROUNDIn these consolidated cases, Antitrust Plaintiffs bring claimsbased on Defendants’ alleged conspiracy to restrain trade inviolation of § 1 of the Sherman Act, and Publicity Plaintiffs bringclaims based on Defendants’ alleged violations of their statutoryand common law rights of publicity. Antitrust Plaintiffs are eight
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2former college basketball players and four former college footballplayers, and Publicity Plaintiffs are four former college footballplayers.NCAA, an unincorporated association of various colleges,universities and regional athletic conferences, governs collegiateathletics and is headquartered in Indiana. The association issubdivided into divisions. These consolidated actions involvepractices and license agreements related to NCAA “Division I” men’sbasketball teams and NCAA “Football Bowl Subdivision,” known as“Division I-A” before 2006, men’s football teams.CLC, which is incorporated and headquartered in Georgia,allegedly handles NCAA’s license agreements. EA, a Delawarecorporation with a principal place of business in California,develops, publishes and distributes video games.I.Antitrust Allegations and ClaimsAntitrust Plaintiffs allege that, during their respectivecollegiate careers, they “competed pursuant to the NCAA’s rules andregulations” and signed one or more release forms “that the NCAAhas interpreted as a release of the student-athlete’s rights withrespect to his image, likeness and/or name in connection withmerchandise sold by the NCAA, its members, and/or its licensees.”See, e.g., Consol. Am. Compl. ¶ 45. One such release form is Form08-3a, which NCAA used in 2008 to assist in certifying a student-athlete’s eligibility to compete. Id. ¶¶ 21 and 292. Toparticipate in an NCAA-sanctioned competition, Antitrust Plaintiffsallege, a student-athlete had to sign Form 08-3a or a form similarto it. By signing Form 08-3a, student-athletes agreed to thefollowing:
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3You authorize the NCAA [or a third party acting on behalfof the NCAA (e.g., host institution, conference, localorganizing committee)] to use your name or picture togenerally promote NCAA championships or other NCAAevents, activities or programs.Id. ¶ 290 (bracketed text in original). This statement reflectsNCAA Bylaw 12.5.1.1.1, which provides,The NCAA [or a third party acting on behalf of the NCAA(e.g., host institution, conference, local organizingcommittee)] may use the name or picture of an enrolledstudent-athlete to generally promote NCAA championshipsor other NCAA events, activities or programs.Id. ¶ 283 (bracketed text in original). Form 08-3a states that astudent-athlete’s release “shall remain in effect until asubsequent Division I Student-Athlete Statement/Drug-TestingConsent form is executed,” which Antitrust Plaintiffs allege hasthe effect of allowing the release to persist in perpetuity. Id.¶ 291.Antitrust Plaintiffs claim that, among other things, releaseforms like Form 08-3a and NCAA rules like Bylaw 12.5.1.1.1 enableNCAA and CLC to execute license agreements with companies, such asEA, that distribute products containing student-athletes’ images,likenesses or names, even after the student-athletes have endedtheir collegiate athletic careers. As noted above, CLC allegedlyadministers NCAA’s license agreements. Antitrust Plaintiffscontend that neither they nor other student athletes consented tothese agreements and that they do not receive compensation for theuse of their images.Antitrust Plaintiffs posit that Defendants engaged inanticompetitive conduct in two ways. First, they contend thatDefendants conspired to fix the prices they received for the “useand sale of their images, likenesses and/or names at zero dollars.”
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