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Tennessee, Virginia file antitrust lawsuit against NCAA NIL rules

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(The Center Square) – Tennessee has filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA over its enforcement of rules related to name, image and likeness.

The lawsuit comes after reports the NCAA is investigating the University of Tennessee over potential rules violations.

The lawsuit, with co-plaintiff Virginia, argues the NCAA is attempting to restrict the marketplace for athletes with its rules.

“After allowing NIL licensing to emerge nationwide, the NCAA is trying to stop that market from functioning,” the lawsuit says. “This month, it announced new proposals related to ‘student-athlete protections in NIL.’ These ‘protections’ allow current athletes to pursue NIL compensation. But it bans prospective college athletes (including current college athletes looking to transfer to another school who are in the “transfer portal”) from discussing potential NIL opportunities before they actually enroll.”

The lawsuit compared those rules to allowing a coach to look for a job but not to discuss a salary with a school until the school has been picked.

“Student-athletes are entitled to rules that are clear and rules that are fair,” Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti said in a statement. “College sports wouldn’t exist without college athletes, and those students shouldn’t be left behind while everybody else involved prospers. The NCAA’s restraints on prospective students’ ability to meaningfully negotiate NIL deals violate federal antitrust law. Only Congress has the power to impose such limits.”

NIL rules changed in 2021 after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to allow athletes to earn NIL money in NCAA v. Alston.

The lawsuit asked for a temporary restraining order blocking the NCAA from enforcing its NIL rules, followed by a permanent injunction.

Tennessee and Virginia are also part of a transfer rule lawsuit against the NCAA that includes the U.S. Department of Justice. A TRO was ordered in that case against the NCAA rules and it will stand through the spring sports season until the full case can be heard.

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