Top Five Sports Law Stories for 2017
Article by Marc Edelman in Forbes Magazine
This year was another interesting year in sports law, highlighted by the Supreme Court’s rejection of certiorari in O’Bannon v. NCAA — marking an end to six years of litigation over whether the NCAA can prevent colleges from sharing licensing revenues with their athletes.
2017 figures to be just as exciting year, with a series of new lawsuits related to college athletes’ rights, sports gaming, and labor law.
Here are the top five stories that should appear on the ‘sports law docket’ in 2017:
1. College Athletes Continue their Fight for Free Markets in Jenkins v. NCAA. Lurking behind O’Bannon v. NCAA on the college sports antitrust docket is Jenkins v. NCAA — a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of FBS football and Division I men’s basketball players by renowned sports-antitrust attorney Jeffrey Kessler.
The Jenkins lawsuit seeks to overturn NCAA rules that place “a ceiling on the compensation that may be paid to [college] athletes for their services” and thus may have far broader implications for college sports than the O’Bannon ruling. If the plaintiffs in Jenkins fully prevail, colleges may find themselves bidding for college athletes’ services in a similar fashion to how colleges already bid for research instructor and Ph.D students’ services.
2. Plaintiffs Lawyers Continue to Argue for the “Employee Status” of College Athletes. Since Region 13 of the National Labor Relations Board found Northwestern University’s grant-in-aid college football players to constitute “employees” under labor law, numerous other lawsuits have attempted to gain for college athletes the status of employee under employment law.
Although the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently denied claims in Berger v. NCAA that the University of Pennsylvania women’s track and field team were employees entitled to the benefit of minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act, plaintiffs’ lawyers have since requested an en banc review.
Meanwhile, in Dawson v. NCAA, a different set of class action plaintiffs have asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to hold that Pac-12 conference football and men’s basketball players constitute employees under employment law. Given the limited nature of the plaintiffs’ class, success by the Dawson plaintiffs seems somewhat more likely.