A nationwide class action currently consolidated in multidistrict litigation filed by current and former student-athletes received a boost from a ruling on the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment. The athletes, from men’s Division I Football Bowl Subdivision and men’s and women’s Division I basketball, allege that the NCAA violated federal antitrust law by “conspiring to impose an artificial ceiling on the scholarships and benefits that student-athletes may receive as payment for their athletic services.” The allegations focus specifically on the NCAA’s cap to the student-athletes grants-in-aid. The parties reached a settlement as to all claims for damages, but the case proceeded on claims for injunctive relief.
Both parties moved for summary judgment on several issues, including defendant’s argument that plaintiffs’ class action claims were barred by res judicata or collateral estoppel. Defendant alleged that the current case is precluded by a prior class action lawsuit by a group of Division I student-athletes that was also brought against the NCAA. The case, O’Bannon v. NCAA, involved a challenge to the NCAA rule preventing athletes from sharing in the revenue from the sale of their name, image, and likeness being used in videogames and live game telecasts. The O’Bannon court ruled in favor of the class and the Ninth Circuit largely affirmed, including the finding that a less restrictive alternative would be to allow NCAA member schools to award grants-in-aid up to the student athletes’ full cost of attendance.
Despite the similarities with O’Bannon, the district court found no preclusive effect, since some of the plaintiffs were not part of the O’Bannon class and raised new antitrust challenges to conduct stemming from a different NCAA rule at a different period in time. The district court also granted both parties’ summary judgment motions finding that plaintiffs had met their initial burden of showing the defendants’ challenged restraints produced significant anticompetitive effects in the relevant market. The district court further found that the procompetitive justifications of O’Bannon applied to the case, but not defendants’ other procompetitive justifications. The district court also denied defendants’ motion that O’Bannon precluded consideration of plaintiffs’ proposed less restrictive alternatives.
A bench trial is set for December 3, 2018 to adjudicate the remaining issues in the antitrust claim.
In re Nat’l Collegiate Athletic Assoc. Athletic Grant-in-Aid Cap Antitrust Litig., Nos. 14-md-02541-CW, 14-cv-02758-CW (N.D. Cal. Mar. 28, 2018).