Networks, licensers request dismissal of former college athletes' lawsuit

Friday December 12th, 2014

The television networks and licensing companies named as defendants in a lawsuit brought by former college athletes over the use of their likenesses have called for the lawsuit be dismissed, according to

The class action suit was brought in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee in early October.

In an initial filing Wednesday, the networks, a group which includes ESPN, the four major broadcast companies, the Big Ten Network, SEC Network and Longhorn Network, requested that the court "enter an Order granting the Network Defendants’ Motion and dismissing all allegations and claims against the Network Defendants," and mandate that the plaintiffs pay for the associated court costs.

In a second filing, the licensers, a group of seven companies that includes IMG College and IMG Worldwide, echoed the networks' filing and elaborated on their reasoning for requesting dismissal with several arguments.

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Most notably, the networks said that under Tennessee law, the plaintiffs "have no publicity rights in the broadcasts of sporting events or in advertisements for such broadcasts" and that a previous U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the NCAA's amateurism rules don't violate the Sherman Antitrust Act negates the plaintiffs' claims about antitrust violations.

The lawsuit brought by the former college athletes seeks compensation for television broadcasts involving the athletes, claiming that the networks, licensers and NCAA profited off the use of their likenesses without the players' permission to do so.

The suit came in the wake of the O'Bannon trial, in which a judge ruled the NCAA violated antitrust law by preventing student-athletes from being compensated for their names, images or likenesses (NIL) rights​. That ruling is currently being appealed.

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In July, the NCAA reportedly eliminated a release granting permission for the NCAA, a school or conference to use athletes' NIL rights to promote events without compensating them. Players were allegedly required to sign the release to be eligible for competition. ​The players' lawsuit alleges that this release is "void and/or unenforceable" because the wording used is "unconscionable" and "vague."​

The group of plaintiffs includes former Vanderbilt, Tennessee, UT-Chattanooga and Washington football players and former Tennessee State and Maryland​ Eastern Shore basketball players.​ 

Ben Estes and Molly Geary


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