10 former college athletes sue networks, leagues
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A group of 10 former college athletes have filed a proposed class action, antitrust lawsuit against several television networks and college conferences, including ESPN, CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox and the Southeastern Conference, for profiting off their names and likenesses without their permission in both ads and televising games.
The lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Nashville features former Vanderbilt safety Javon Marshall as lead plaintiff along with former teammates Eric Samuels and Steven Clarke. The lawsuit wants a class action for all current and former players in the Football Bowl Subdivision and Division I men's basketball.
In the lawsuit, plaintiffs allege the release student-athletes are forced to sign is "unconscionable, and vague," rendering it void and unenforceable.
"The conspiracy between and among the Broadcast Defendants, Licensing Defendants, Conference Defendants and the NCAA has created a marketplace resembling a plantation type arrangement where Defendants financially benefit in the collective amount of billions of dollars, while Student Athletes, the driving force of college sports, receive nothing more than their cost of attendance," according to the lawsuit.
"This conspiracy has created an anticompetitive marketplace in which all Defendants commercially exploit the substantial value of each Student Athletes' images."
ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz declined to comment Tuesday. SEC spokesman Herb Vincent said the league does not comment on pending litigation.
Marshall last played in 2013 when Vanderbilt went 9-4 and finished in the Top 25, and the lawsuit notes he played in several games televised in prime time. But the lawsuit - first reported by The Tennessean - noted he never received any compensation for the commercial use of his name and image by the broadcast or licensing defendants.
Other plaintiffs are Sean Parker of Los Angeles, who played football at Washington; Patrick Miller of Chicago, who played basketball at Tennessee State; Rod Wilks and Byron Moore of Knoxville, both former Tennessee football players; Chaz Moore of Chattanooga, who played football at Chattanooga; Marlon Walls of Memphis, a former Tennessee football player; and Chris Conner of Nashville, a former Maryland-Eastern Shore basketball player.
The lawsuit accuses the broadcast networks, including the SEC and Longhorn networks, of "colluding" with conferences to "fix the amount Student Athletes are paid for the licensing, use, and sale of their names, images and likenesses at zero, or, at most, a portion of the cost of attendance" by refusing to negotiate or sign contracts with the students themselves. The lawsuit also alleges the broadcasters adopted the rules of the NCAA and the conferences.
The conferences named as defendants are the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big Ten Conference, the Big 12 Conference, the Pacific-12 Conference, Conference USA, Ohio Valley Conference based in Tennessee, and the Big East Conference. Others named include IMG Worldwide, Inc.; Big Ten Network Services, LLC; CBS Collegiate Sports Properties, Inc.; JMI Sports LLC; Telesouth Communications, Inc.; T3 Media, Inc.; Learfield Sports LLC; and William Morris Endeavors, LLC.
ESPN and ABC are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; CBS is part of CBS Corp.; NBC is controlled by Comcast Corp.; and Fox is a unit of 21st Century Fox Inc.
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