The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was sued in California federal court on Tuesday in a proposed class action that alleges thousands of current and former student athletes were denied annual cash payments for academic achievement in violation of U.S. antitrust law.
Two former college athletes filed the complaint against the NCAA, which is the governing body for U.S. intercollegiate sports, and a group of its member conferences. The lawsuit alleged an unlawful conspiracy to bar cash awards for academic success.
The lawsuit builds off a U.S. Supreme Court 9-0 ruling in 2021 that said it was illegal for the NCAA to have blocked schools from offering education-related benefits, including an award of up to $5,980 a year to student athletes. More than 50 schools have since started to offer those payments.
“This is part of the continuing effort to bring justice to the athletes who have been deprived of the ability to share in the revenues they generated by the NCAA,” a lawyer for the plaintiffs, Jeffrey Kessler of law firm Winston & Strawn, told Reuters on Tuesday.
Representatives from the NCAA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The suit seeks to represent a class of “thousands” of current and former student athletes who competed on a Division I team starting in April 2019, before the academic awards were permitted.
Division I is the top level of college sports in the United States, including big money makers football and basketball as well as many other sports. The complaint said the NCAA, its league conferences and member schools “generate billions of dollars a year in revenues from Division I sports.”
The two named plaintiffs are Chuba Hubbard, who played football at Oklahoma State University, and Keira McCarrell, a former track and field runner at the University of Oregon and Auburn University.
The plaintiffs “did not receive the academic achievement awards that they would have received in a competitive market,” the complaint alleges.
The case is Hubbard et al v. National Collegiate Athletic Association et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 4:23-cv-01593.