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College Athletes' Lawsuit: NCAA Is an 'Unlawful Cartel'

By Brett Snider, Esq. on March 19, 2014 11:15 AM

Four college athletes are suing the NCAA and its five biggest conferences, claiming that the organization is an "unlawful cartel."

The lawsuit seeks damages for college football and basketball players who claim they suffered economic harm from the National Collegiate Athletic Association. It asks for a declaratory judgment that the NCAA is in violation of antitrust law, reports The Associated Press.

How is the NCAA an "unlawful cartel," according to the lawsuit?

4 Players Accuse NCAA of Antitrust Violations

One college basketball player and three college football players are named plaintiffs in this NCAA lawsuit, and all are claiming that the Association is essentially price fixing (like an illegal cartel) by not allowing players to negotiate or receive compensation from its members.

Federal antitrust law attempts to regulate companies who engage in price fixing, monopolies, or other business practices which restrain competition. Antitrust suits have been filed to prevent price fixing in just about every industry, although professional sports are often exempt.

The plaintiffs in this NCAA lawsuit argue that its rules are "a naked restraint of trade without any pro-competitive purpose or effect," the AP reports. Many professional sports executives, however, don't feel the same way; former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has said that paying college players just isn't in the public or players' interests.

College Players Fight Back

This suit is part of a larger narrative of the growing legal battles over college athletes. Football players at Northwestern University made headlines earlier this year by pushing for official union recognition, spurred by the treatment of college athletes by the NCAA.

College athletes also won a key civil battle over the use of their likenesses in EA Sports' series of college sports-themed video games, with EA Sports agreeing to settle with the players. That video game lawsuit hasn't been completely put to rest, though. While EA Sports has settled, the NCAA may go to trial over the issue of using college athletes' faces in games like "NCAA Football 13" without paying them, the AP reports.

Many college players have turned to litigation after realizing how much money is involved in their NCAA participation. The ex-college athletes' antitrust suit alleges that one plaintiff, former Clemson football player Martin Jenkins, was in part responsible for the department generating "more than $70 million in revenue" in 2012, reports the AP.

Who wouldn't want a piece of that?

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