Former WVU recruit sues NCAA

by John O'Brien |
Nov. 24, 2014, 2:43pm

SAN FRANCISCO – Three former college athletes are the latest to file a class action lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association, claiming it and 11 athletic conferences have created a monopsony over college athletes.

Kenyata Johnson, Barry Brunetti and D.J. Stephens filed their complaint Nov. 19 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. It alleges the defendants have unlawfully agreed that no college will pay an athlete any amount that exceeds the value of an athletic scholarship.

Johnson was a linebacker on the University of Memphis’ football team, while Stephens played for the same school’s basketball team.

Brunetti, a native of Memphis, originally attended West Virginia University on a football scholarship but transferred to the University of Mississippi in 2011.

“(The defendants) collectively share ‘monopsony’ power over college athletes,” the complaint says. “The NCAA and its members are ‘the only game in town’ when it comes to compensating college athletes for their services.

“In enacting the challenged restraint, the NCAA and its members have the ultimate power to artificially depress compensation to college athletes. If a top-tier athlete doesn’t like it, he or she essentially has no reasonably close alternative. That is the nature of a monopsony.

“Instead of a free market, a market controlled by a monopsonist is a ‘take it or leave it’ market.”

Representing the plaintiffs are L. Timothy Fisher of Bursor & Fisher in Walnut Creek, Calif., and Bryan L. Clobes of Cafferty Clobes Meriwether & Sprengel in Philadelphia.

In a separate filing, those attorneys ask that the new class action be designated as related to nine other  antitrust lawsuits against the NCAA and one against Electronic Arts.

Among those lawsuits is the one brought by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon. In August, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in favor of O’Bannon, deciding the NCAA’s rules unreasonably restrain trade.

Also among the lawsuits is Keller vs. Electronic Arts. In it, former Arizona State University quarterback Sam Keller sued EA for using his likeness in a video game without paying him, and the case was combined with O’Bannon’s.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled EA couldn’t claim First Amendment protections, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal.

EA paid $40 million to settle the case.

“Relating this action to the above-listed actions will promote substantial efficiency and judicial economy,” the Johnson attorneys wrote.

“Judge Wilken has presided over the Keller and O’Bannon actions since 2009 and is intimately familiar with the NCAA’s rules and regulations relating to college athletics.

“The Johnson action … concerns similar questions with respect to class certification and liability, and will likely involve overlapping witnesses, experts and discovery.”

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