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NCAA Seeks to Delay, Split Trial Over Player Images Use

The National Collegiate Athletic Association asked a federal judge to postpone a trial over student athletes’ claims they should be compensated for the use of their images until earlier rulings in the case that have been appealed are decided.

The NCAA said a delay is needed unless the judge separates students’ claims that they should be compensated for the use of their images in video games from the trial. Those claims shouldn’t be heard until after the judge has considered a settlement reached with Electronic Arts Inc. and the U.S. Supreme Court has considered whether to hear arguments whether the practice is protected as free speech under the Constitution’s First Amendment, the NCAA said.

“By moving to separate the video game claims from the trial scheduled to begin June 9, the NCAA seeks to prevent a massive and unnecessary duplication and prejudice,” Donald Remy, NCAA’s chief legal officer, said yesterday in an e-mail.

The case was filed by former college basketball and football players challenging the NCAA’s rules of amateurism. It’s part of a movement by current and former college athletes to secure compensation, and greater medical benefits, control over their images and labor protections in a system that considers them amateurs. The athletes aren’t paid despite generating sponsorship, ticket and merchandise revenue in addition to that from TV contracts.

First Amendment

If the U.S. Supreme Court decides that the First Amendment bars the players’ claims, then that part of the case would be dismissed, so it makes sense to wait, the NCAA said in an April 25 court filing. A hearing on NCAA requests is scheduled for June 5 before U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken, who will preside over the trial in Oakland, California.

The association has also asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco to overturn her ruling that allowed thousands of current and former student athletes to seek a court order blocking the the NCAA from stopping them from entering into licensing deals to get paid when they appear broadcasts and other footage.

The Electronic Arts settlement is worth $40 million, players’ lawyers have said. Michael Hausfeld, Steve Berman and Rob Carey, attorneys for the players, didn’t immediately respond to e-mails yesterday seeking comment on the NCAA’s requests.

College athletes generate more than $16 billion in television contracts for the NCAA and its conferences, as well as revenue from sponsorships, ticket and merchandise sales and payouts for championships, according to another lawsuit alleging antitrust violations by the association.

The case is In Re NCAA Student-Athlete Name and Likeness Licensing Litigation, 09-01967, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (Oakland).

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