NCAA Athletes Can Legally Pursue TV Money, Judge in Antitrust Lawsuit Rules

A federal judge in California on Tuesday dismissed a motion by the NCAA to prevent football and men’s basketball players from legally pursuing a cut of live broadcast revenues, significantly raising the stakes for the governing body of college sports, ESPN reported.

The ruling, by Chief Judge Claudia Wilken of the U.S. District Court in Oakland, Calif., rejected the NCAA’s motion that players in the antitrust suit led by the former UCLA star Ed O’Bannon should be precluded from advancing their lawsuit on procedural grounds. The NCAA had objected to the players’ amending their lawsuit last year to claim a share of all television game revenues, not just those from rebroadcasts.

The former players who brought the suit are seeking to have it certified as a class action on behalf of all Division I players in football and men’s basketball. Judge Wilken’s ruling does not grant that status but does reject the NCAA’s attempt to block it on procedural grounds. She set a hearing on the question for June 20 and ordered the NCAA to make its arguments against class certification on the merits rather than procedural objections.

“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.”

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