NCAA sued over prize-money restrictions on student athletes

By Mike Scarcella

March 19 (Reuters) - A top-ranked U.S. tennis player has sued the National Collegiate Athletic Association in North Carolina federal court, accusing it of restricting prize money that tennis players, gymnasts and other athletes can earn for competitive events away from their schools.

The proposed class action lawsuit filed on Monday by Reese Brantmeier, a star player attending the University of North Carolina, seeks damages and a court order blocking some curbs the collegiate athletic governing body places on compensation for athletic performance.

The complaint said the NCAA is violating U.S. antitrust law by restraining how much athletes can be paid at tournaments and other non-NCAA competitions, such as events hosted by the U.S. Tennis Association.

Brantmeier said the NCAA’s rules have cost her tens of thousands of dollars in prize money.

The NCAA “should be working to support and encourage student-athletes in individual sports to compete in the highest and most prestigious competitions in their respective sports, including non-NCAA events,” the lawsuit said.

The NCAA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An attorney for Brantmeier said in a statement on Tuesday that "Reese does not seek money but aims to eliminate the NCAA’s illegal and arbitrary restrictions."

College athletes are allowed to participate in non-NCAA events, but the organization's rules say they can only accept prize money that covers “actual and necessary expenses.”

The lawsuit seeks to represent a class of more than 100 athletes in the NCAA’s Division I — the highest competitive level for U.S. college athletes — who played in “individual” sports that are not traditionally profit-generating like football and basketball.

Those athletes include golfers, swimmers and wrestlers, in addition to tennis players and others.

After a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on NCAA player rules, the organization in 2021 loosened restrictions on the ability of student athletes to receive compensation, including for the commercial use of their name, image and likeness, or NIL.

The athletic governing body has faced a growing number of legal challenges from current and former college athletes seeking billions of dollars in damages over claims that they were forced to miss out on payments and for future compensation.

In one of the cases, a U.S. federal judge in February blocked an NCAA rule that barred third-party marketing deals to recruit student athletes.

The NCAA broadly has defended its restraints on compensation as efforts to maintain the “amateurism” of college athletics.

The case is Reese Brantmeier v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, U.S. District Court, Middle District of North Carolina, No. 1:24-CV-00238.

For plaintiff: Peggy Wedgworth and Jacob Morse of Milberg Coleman Bryson Phillips Grossman; Jason Miller of Miller Monroe & Plyler; and Joel Lulla

For defendant: No appearance yet

Read more:

Judge blocks NCAA student recruitment rule in states' antitrust lawsuit

US Justice Dept, more states join lawsuit over NCAA athlete transfers

US judge says NCAA athletes can pursue class actions seeking over $1.3 bln

(Note: Updates with comment from plaintiff)

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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