According to ESPN, ten former collegiate athletes have filed a lawsuit against the “Big Five” college conferences, Conference USA, and the Ohio Valley Conference as well as major television networks including, but not limited to, ESPN, ABC, CBS, and Fox. The former college players, who seek to form a class for all current and former student-athletes who played in the Football Bowl Subdivision or Division I Men’s Basketball, allege that the conferences and networks violated antitrust law by profiting off their names and likeness during broadcasts of collegiate sporting events. In the lawsuit, filed this past Friday in U.S. District Court in Nashville, argues that the networks and conferences colluded to keep student-athletes from profiting off the use of their likeness by refusing to negotiate licensing agreements with individual players. The lawsuit also claims that the release players sign that waive their rights to broadcasting revenue is “unconscionable and vague.” The current plaintiffs are led by lead plaintiff Javon Marshall, a safety who played most recently for Vanderbilt University in 2013. If the lawsuit gains traction and a class is certified it would be a continued trend towards a new understanding of what it means to be a student-athlete.
Jason Fixelle is the Sports Highlight Editor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current second year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2016).