NCAA Pauses NIL Enforcement Amid Lawsuits and Historic Settlement Talks

NCAA President Charlie Baker announces an indefinite pause on Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) enforcement due to ongoing lawsuits. A potential settlement agreement could reshape college sports, featuring $2.9 billion in back damages and a future revenue sharing model with athletes.

author-image
Bijay Laxmi
New Update
NCAA Pauses NIL Enforcement Amid Lawsuits and Historic Settlement Talks

NCAA Pauses NIL Enforcement Amid Lawsuits and Historic Settlement Talks

In a significant development, NCAA President Charlie Baker has announced an indefinite pause on Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) enforcement due to ongoing lawsuits. This move comes as the NCAA and power conferences work to adopt a historic settlement agreement by the end of the month that could reshape the landscape of college sports.

Why this matters: The potential settlement agreement and ongoing lawsuits could have far-reaching implications for the future of college athletics, potentially altering the balance of power between athletes, universities, and the NCAA. The outcome of these negotiations could also influence the broader discussion around amateurism and compensation in college sports.

The proposed settlement agreement is expected to feature nearly $2.9 billion in back damages for former players, a future revenue sharing model with athletes starting at $22 million annually per school, and an overhaul of the NCAA scholarship and roster structure. Leading plaintiff attorneys, Steve Berman and Jeffrey Kessler, have been negotiating with college administrators and have detailed the nature of discussions, a possible post-settlement timeline, and hot button topics such as the impact on future legal challenges, Title IX, and booster-led collectives.

The NCAA and power conferences have accepted that a congressional bill for complete immunity is not going to happen, leading to accelerated negotiations over the last month. Annual conference meetings this month will provide a roadmap to a decision timetable, with a potential ratification of the deal as soon as the week of May 20. "I kept telling them that our price will go up if you keep letting us win in court," said Steve Berman, managing partner at Hagens Berman law firm.

If authorized, the settlement process could stretch well into the fall and possibly next year, with several steps required, including approval from Judge Claudia Wilken of the Northern District of California, notice to athletes, and a final approval hearing. The back damages owed to athletes for the use of their name, image, and likeness before the NCAA lifted NIL prohibitions in 2021 would likely start immediately after the court's final approval.

The settlement agreement is expected to consolidate two other antitrust cases, Hubbard and Carter, but the Fontenot case, which seeks billions of dollars for college athletes in compensation from televised broadcasts, is an outlier. A consolidation of all four cases is ideal to prevent future legal challenges against the NCAA and power leagues.

Meanwhile, a former college athlete, Ralph Trey Johnson, has filed a class and collective action complaint against the NCAA and 23 member schools for failing to pay student athletes. The complaint alleges that student athletes are employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state law, and are entitled to compensation. While previous court rulings in Berger v. NCAA and Dawson v. NCAA held that student athletes are not employees, a 2018 case, Livers v. NCAA, may have opened the door for Johnson's case to proceed.

The NCAA's recent policy announcement to allow student athletes to benefit from their name, image, and likeness may have weakened the amateurism defense, which has been used to argue that student athletes are not employees. "This complaint is filed by lawyers who have already sued unsuccessfully on this subject," said Donald Remy, NCAA chief operating officer and chief legal officer, in response to Johnson's complaint.

As the NCAA navigates this complex legal landscape, the next few weeks will be crucial in determining the future of college sports. The potential settlement agreement and ongoing lawsuits could lead to significant changes in how student athletes are compensated and treated under the law. The NCAA's indefinite pause on NIL enforcement is a clear indication of the shifting tides and the challenges that lie ahead for the organization and its member schools.

Key Takeaways

  • NCAA pauses Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) enforcement due to ongoing lawsuits.
  • Potential $2.9 billion settlement for former players, with future revenue sharing model.
  • Settlement could reshape college sports, altering balance of power between athletes, universities, and NCAA.
  • Former college athlete sues NCAA and 23 member schools for failing to pay student athletes.
  • NCAA's NIL policy change may have weakened amateurism defense, opening door for future lawsuits.