Department of Justice Joins Multi-State Lawsuit Against NCAA’s Transfer Eligibility Rule, Supporting College Athletes’ Rights to Control Name, Image, and Likeness

CHARLESTON, West Virginia – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced its involvement in a multi-state lawsuit challenging the NCAA’s transfer eligibility rule, asserting that it unlawfully restricts college athletes’ ability to monetize their name, image, and likeness while controlling their education. This marks the first time the DOJ has joined a state-led antitrust lawsuit.

In addition to the DOJ, three more states and the District of Columbia have joined the lawsuit led by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, bringing the total number of plaintiffs to 11. The lawsuit, filed on December 7 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, seeks to challenge the NCAA’s requirement that college athletes who transfer a second time among Division I schools must sit out for one year before participating in games. It is argued that the NCAA has been inconsistent and unjust in granting waivers for subsequent transfers.

During a congressional hearing titled “NIL Playbook: Proposal to Protect Student Athletes’ Dealmaking Rights,” the proposed FAIR College Sports Act was discussed. This act aims to provide antitrust protection to the NCAA, clarify that athletes are not employees, and prohibit schools from making name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals with athletes. UCLA quarterback Chase Griffin, who currently holds over 40 NIL deals in multiple states, strongly criticized the bill, stating that it would hinder the opportunities for future college athletes.

The involvement of the DOJ in this lawsuit demonstrates their support for college athletes across the nation. Jonathan Kanter, an assistant attorney general in the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, emphasized the importance of allowing college athletes to freely choose institutions that best fulfill their academic, personal, and professional development needs without facing anticompetitive restrictions. The DOJ’s involvement signifies the determination to challenge the NCAA’s rules and bring about long-term change.

Last month, Judge John Preston Bailey issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the NCAA from enforcing the transfer eligibility rule. This ruling allows college athletes to compete without fear of retaliation from the association. The preliminary injunction will remain in effect until at least the end of the 2023-24 academic year.

The court order had an immediate impact on college basketball players Deivon Smith and Marcus Adams Jr. from Utah and BYU, respectively, as they were granted the ability to play immediately following their transfers. The NCAA has stated its compliance with the injunction, announcing that multiple-time transfers working through the waiver process will be allowed to play without delay.

The involvement of the DOJ and multiple states in this lawsuit is a significant development in the ongoing debate surrounding the rights and opportunities of college athletes. By challenging the NCAA’s transfer eligibility rule and advocating for greater freedom and fairness in college sports, this lawsuit could pave the way for substantial changes in the future. As the case progresses, it will be crucial to watch how the courts address the issues raised and what impact this will have on the landscape of college athletics.

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