NLRB Ruling Allows College Football Players to Unionize — and the Ramifications Could Be Huge

A recent decision by regional director Peter Sung Ohr of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) declared that Northwestern University football players are school employees, and have the right to unionize. This move could have vast potential ramifications for academic athletics and the NCAA, two groups that have traditionally worked together to set rules for players classified as “student-athletes.”

The cause was spearheaded by former Northwester quarterback Kain Colter and the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA), a union which advocates for student athletes’ rights. During …

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Are March Madness Office Pools Legal?

Brace yourselves, employers: March Madness is upon us. Thursday, March 20, is the first full day of the 2014 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Men’s Division I Basketball Championship Tournament games, and the tourney does not conclude until the Championship Game on Monday, April 7, in Arlington, Texas. During the tournament’s three weeks, the United States economy will lose an estimated $1.2 billion in productivity as employees watch early round games, participate in office pools, and discuss the outcomes with co-workers. (Fantasy sports activity in …

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Collegiate Athletes Bring in a Ringer for New Action Against NCAA

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) is currently defending student amateurism on several fronts across the country in legal battles with big potential monetary implications.  In one ongoing lawsuit, former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon leads a class action on behalf of former and current NCAA players, alleging that the organization’s practice of licensing and profiting from student images and likenesses without their consent violates federal antitrust laws.  Elsewhere, Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter organized a union movement at the school and requested that the National …

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Stanford Runner Becomes First Active Division-1 Athlete to Sue NCAA Over Concussions . . . Then Backs Out Of Suit!

Jessica Tonn, a senior cross-country and track and field runner at Stanford University, became the first active D-I athlete to sue the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) over concussions when she filed a lawsuit against the NCAA in federal court on March 5.  In an abrupt twist, her involvement in that litigation lasted two days when she decided that she no longer wished to be a plaintiff in the class action. Tonn’s involvement as an active student would have certainly made history, especially given that …

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Settlement Reached Between Rutgers and the Big East in Exit Fee Dispute

Rutgers University and the former Big East collegiate athletic conference have been fighting in Rhode Island federal court over the amount that the school would pay as an ‘exit fee’ – a penalty levied on Rutgers for leaving the for Big East conference early and joining the Big Ten later this year.  Now, both sides have agreed on a settlement deal where Rutgers will hand over $11.5 million instead of the original $15 million exit fee.  The school has paid a portion of the fee …

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Supreme Court Denies NCAA’s Petition to Get “In The Game”

On January 13, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the NCAA’s request to intervene as a party in Keller v. Electronic Arts Inc.  The Keller case stems from 2009 and involves “rights of publicity” and antitrust claims. Former college football players alleged that the EA violated their right of publicity and conspired with the NCAA by using their image and likeness in its videogames.

 In EA’s appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that the NCAA was not immune to the players’ claims because the depictions in …

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Judges’ Panel Creates New Multi-District Litigation for NCAA Concussion Cases

A panel of federal judges recently ruled that ten class-action lawsuits brought against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) will be consolidated into a single multi-district litigation in Chicago.  In essence, each suit alleges that the NCAA intentionally concealed the long term-risks of concussions sustained by student athletes in a variety of college sports.  The consolidation follows in the wake of the recent $765 million settlement of the NFL’s concussion litigation, a nearly identical action brought against the league by over 4,500 former NFL alumni.…

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Free Beer + 2,500 Fans = Liability Concerns for Louisville University

Picture this: 2,500 fans rushing into a college basketball game bearing free beer vouchers. What could possibly go wrong? If you ask Louisville Cardinals’ Women’s Basketball head coach Jeff Walz, nothing at all. After all, Walz’s idea for boosting attendance at the WNIT semifinals game against LSU — provide free beer for fans, and they will come — worked, bringing more than 8,000 attendees to witness an 88-67 victory.

To pull it off, the coach emptied his wallet and dropped $5,000 to buy the …

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The Anti-Trust Suit Isn’t Over Yet for the NCAA

U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken moved the Ed O’Bannon anti-trust lawsuit forward against the NCAA. On November 8, 2013, Judge Wilken certified a class of former and current college athletes suing the NCAA. The suit began in 2009, when former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon sued the NCAA for wrongfully profiting off the names and likeness of former student athletes in EA Sports video games.

The judge ruled that players can seek a verdict forcing the NCAA and its member-schools to end restrictions on …

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Judge Allows NCAA Athletes’ Antitrust Claims to Proceed

A U.S. District Judge in California, Claudia Wilken, rejected all of the NCAA’s arguments to dismiss antitrust claims against it in connection with the use of student athletes’ names and likenesses.  According to the athletes, the NCAA and others are making huge profits by selling rights that should belong to the players.  On October 25, 2013, Wilken ruled that those claims could proceed to the next stage of litigation.

The athletes contend that antitrust laws are applicable because they are forced to give up their …

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