Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Two Arizona football players join lawsuit vs. NCAA

Jake Fischer’s scheduled appearance at Pac-12 Media Day just got way more intriguing.

The Arizona Wildcats’ senior linebacker joined UA senior kicker Jake Smith and four other current football players Thursday as plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the NCAA related to use of college athletes’ likenesses without compensation.

“We are aware that Jake Smith and Jake Fischer are now plaintiffs in the lawsuit,” Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne said in a statement.

Jake Fischer

Jake Fischer led Arizona with 119 tackles last season. Photo by Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

“While we do not support the lawsuit, we support their right to be involved and express their opinion. They are two fine young men and we are glad they are part of our program and University.”

Former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon is the lead plaintiff in this high-profile legal battle. The other current players who joined the suit Thursday are Clemson defensive back Darius Robinson, Vanderbilt senior linebacker Chase Garnham, Minnesota senior tight end Moses Alipate and Minnesota senior wide receiver Victor Keise.

The heart of the issue is the use of players’ likenesses and skill sets in NCAA-licensed video games by Electronic Arts. While EA Sports no longer produces a college basketball game, it annually produces a college football game in which players’ numbers, facial features (including skin tone), size, speed and strength (among many other attributes) closely resemble the actual player, even though their names are not used.

Fischer is expected to address his part in the lawsuit next Friday at Pac-12 Media Day in Los Angeles. Fischer earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors last season, when he made a team-high 119 tackles, and was a first-team all-conference academic All-American.

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez also can be expected to have more to say at that time. He was quoted in an ESPN.com story:

“Jake and Jake came to my house the other day and talked to me about the case and their involvement,” he said. “They’re two conscientious guys, and they’re both really appreciative of playing college ball. It’s not like they’re disenchanted with the system. They love being student-athletes. But with the likeness issue, they wanted to see if they could have a voice for college athletes, and I said I support that.

“I know there’s concerns (in the NCAA) about where this lawsuit will lead. And we need to keep it as amateur status. We already have a pro league, it’s NFL. Let’s not make college a minor league. I just think we can do a few things, get a couple thousand more (dollars a year) to help out the players.”

Here is more on the lawsuit from our Gannett partner, USA Today:

The addition of the new players came as part of filing in which lawyers for the plaintiffs also amended their complaint with the inclusion of a series of new and scathing allegations against each of the defendants.

Among them are that:

– Then-NCAA president Myles Brand in “public remarks” in 2008, “conceded” that “(t)he right to license or sell one’s name, image, and likeness is a property right with economic value.”

– EA and CLC “actively lobbied for, and obtained, administrative interpretations of those rules that permitted greater uncompensated exploitation of student-athletes’ names, images, and likenesses. Where their formal efforts were unsuccessful, EA and CLC (Collegiate Licensing Co.) obtained agreement from the NCAA to permit greater uncompensated exploitation of student-athletes’ names, images, and likenesses notwithstanding the rules.”

– In August 2007, when licensing of video games was being negotiated, EA “offered to establish a ‘players’ fund’ for the use of the (student-athletes’) names, images, and likenesses. CLC, negotiating on the NCAA’s behalf, instead suggested that the money should go to the NCAA. EA agreed to pay a kicker to NCAA in order ‘to align interests and incentivize all parties to help build the category with new rights.’ EA made this offer contingent on ‘no royalties . . . to a player fund.’ ”

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said via text message the association “will reserve comment until we have had time to read the amended complaint.”

Until Thursday, the named plaintiffs in the case were a group of former college athletes, headed by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon and including all-time greats Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell. …

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled earlier this month that the suit could be amended to add new plaintiffs who are current players. She discussed granting permission for that at a June hearing on whether to certify the suit as a class action. She has not yet ruled on that question.

Thursday’s news came one day after the NCAA said it would not renew its licensing agreement with EA Sports. The NCAA said it was confident of its legal position for use of its name and logo, but “given the current business climate and costs of litigation” it won’t enter a new deal after the current one expires in 2014.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that NCAA Football 2014 will be the video game’s final edition, as NCAA member schools license their own trademarks for it.

In the O’Bannon suit, he and the other plaintiffs allege that the defendants violated anti-trust law by conspiring to fix at zero the amount of compensation athletes can receive for the use of their names, images and likenesses in products or media while they are in school and by requiring athletes to sign forms under which they allegedly relinquish in perpetuity all rights pertaining to the use of the names, images and likenesses in ways including TV contracts, rebroadcasts of games, and video games.

If Wilken certifies the suit as a class action, it could allow thousands of former and current football and men’s basketball players to join the case. That could create the possibility of a damages award in the billions of dollars. In addition, if the plaintiffs were to get everything they have said they are seeking, it would force the establishment of an entirely new compensation arrangement for current NCAA Bowl Subdivision football players and Division I men’s basketball players — one under which “monies generated by the licensing and sale of class members’ names, images and likenesses can be temporarily held in trust” until their end of their college playing careers.

Search site | Terms of service