Attorneys fighting for college-athletes’ rights say proposed bill hearing largely left out the most important voice in the room: college athletes
Attorneys at Hagens Berman representing NCAA college athletes in a fight for their rights to payment for their name, image and likeness say that a Congressional hearing about the subject largely failed to include the most important voices: those of college athletes.
The Commerce Committee held a hearing on June 9, 2021, on “NCAA Athlete NIL Rights,” during which attorneys say nearly all live witnesses were slanted in favor of the NCAA, despite the support of many for the side of college athletes, and the written testimony submitted by Sedona Prince, a member of the University of Oregon’s women’s basketball team.
“We see no reason why the NCAA should not be subject to the market like any other well-financed business,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and attorney representing college athletes against the NCAA. “The framing from the NCAA on this issue is just flat wrong. The NIL restrictions are due to NCAA rules that prevent monetization of rights of student athletes. If the NCAA wanted to get rid of those rules, it could do so at any time. The NCAA would have members of Congress believe that there is an imminent crisis to push through a bad bill that fails to take college athletes into account.”
Attorneys say that federal legislation is not necessary to preserve college sports or to ensure that college athletes gain NIL compensation freedoms. There is no need for Congress to declare that college athletes have NIL rights because it is not the law that is standing in the way of those rights, according to attorneys. The reason the state laws have been enacted is to remedy the fundamental problem that the NCAA rules currently unfairly restrict NIL rights that college athletes would otherwise have, according to the firm. If the NCAA truly believes there is a problem with having different NIL standards from state to state, there is nothing stopping it from remedying this problem itself by changing NCAA rules to allow all athletes to benefit from their own NILs.
“Sedona and her peers – the hardworking college athletes whom Congress is discussing the very regulation of – deserve a seat at the table,” Berman added.
“No legislation should sacrifice college athletes’ rights and freedoms to protect the NCAA’s bank account,” Prince said in her testimony.
A recently proposed bill brought by Sen. Roger Wicker to Sen. Maria Cantwell has the potential to rob hundreds of thousands of college athletes of their just rights to compensation for their name, image and likeness, the firm says.
Attorneys say that the bill proposed by Sen. Wicker stands to totally wipe out legal efforts to protect college athletes’ rights to their name, image and likeness – which have served as money-making potential for the NCAA, its members and conferences for decades. College athletes are long overdue for their fair share of the massively lucrative college sports industry, the firm says.
Congress should not pass any bill that would give the NCAA a free pass from legal liability for the enormous profits they have reaped at college athletes’ expense, the firm says. Attorneys contend that Congress does not need to give the NCAA any antitrust exemption in order to allow them to benefit from their NIL rights, and there is no justification to providing them with immunity from accountability for the financial harm they have caused athletes when they continue to bring in millions upon millions of dollars every year.
The issue is currently the subject of an antitrust class-action lawsuit alleging that the NCAA and other defendants violated federal antitrust laws in abiding by a particular subset of NCAA amateurism rules that prohibit college athletes from receiving anything of value in exchange for the commercial use of their name and likeness.
Hagens Berman has represented classes of college students before, achieving a $208 million settlement against the NCAA concerning student-athlete scholarship limits, a combined $60 million settlement against Electronic Arts and the NCAA regarding player likeness rights in videogames, and an additional settlement valued at $75 million regarding concussions and safety protocols and a trial victory overturning NCAA rules limiting education-based compensation. The firm’s sports litigation legal team also includes former NCAA athletes.
Hagens Berman has 10 offices worldwide. The firm’s tenacious drive for plaintiffs’ rights has earned it numerous national accolades, awards and titles of “Most Feared Plaintiff’s Firm,” MVPs and Trailblazers of class-action law. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.