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Judge rules NCAA can’t stop players from pursuing TV revenue

01.30.13 at 11:28 am ET
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A federal court judge ruled Tuesday that the NCAA can’t prevent football and men’s basketball players from pursuing a portion of their teams’ live broadcast revenues.

The NCAA had objected to the advancement of an antitrust lawsuit led by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon. The players wanted to amend that lawsuit last year to claim a share of all televised game revenues, not just revenue from rebroadcasts, and the NCAA moved to block that change.

The dismissal of that NCAA motion means that players could potentially gain a much greater share of revenue than previously possible if their lawsuit is successful. Since NCAA athletes aren’t treated as employees, they don’t have an organizing body to negotiate a share of revenue for themselves. The players involved in the suit are seeking to change their status through the means of class-action.

“Now the [NCAA and its co-defendants] are facing potential liability that’s based on the billions of dollars in revenue instead of tens or hundreds of millions,” said Michael Hausfeld, interim lead counsel for the plaintiffs. “It’s a more accurate context for what the players deserve.”

In a statement, NCAA general counsel Donald Remy took the opposite view, saying he sees the ruling as a partial victory for the NCAA.

“Although our motion to strike was denied, the judge has signaled skepticism on plaintiff’s class-certification motion and recognized the plaintiffs’ radical change in their theory of the case,” Remy said. “This is a step in the right direction toward allowing the NCAA to further demonstrate why this case is wrong on the law and that plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that this case satisfies the criteria for class litigation.”

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