Student Athletes Sue the NCAA

An antitrust class action lawsuit has been filed by high-profile sports labor lawyer Jeffrey Kessler on behalf of student athletes against the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletics Association) and its five wealthiest conferences (Big Ten, Pac 10, Big 12, ACC and SEC). The suit aims to challenge the amateur status of men’s college basketball and football players.

“In no other business—and college sports is big business—would it ever be suggested that the people who are providing the essential services work for free,” Kessler told ESPN. “Only in big-time college sports is that line drawn.” One of the most respected sports labor attorneys, Kessler has was instrumental in forming NFL free agency, and has represented many high-profile athletes, including Tom Brady.

The suit comes less than two months after Northwestern University quarterback Kain Colter and former collegiate athletes—including UMass grad Luke Bonner—formed the College Athletes Players Association, which hopes to unionize collegiate athletics (“The NCAA vs. Student Athletes,” March 13, 2014, http://www.valleyadvocate.com).

“The effort to create more of a voice for college athletes in revenue-generating sports is a major issue that’s existed for a while,” Bonner told the Advocate. “There’s no voice or vote from the players who drive this multi-billion dollar industry.”

The suit seeks no damages, but challenges the NCAA’s “false claims of amateurism,” charging that those governing college sports “have lost their way far down the road of commercialism, signing multi-billion-dollar contracts wholly disconnected from the interests of ‘student athletes,’ who are barred from receiving the benefits of competitive markets for their services even though their services generate these massive revenues.”

(Originally appeared in the Valley Advocate.)

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