Six current college football players were added as plaintiffs Thursday to a high-profile anti-trust lawsuit that claims the NCAA owes billions of dollars to former players for allowing their likenesses to be used without compensation.
The players are: Vanderbilt linebacker Chase Garnham; Clemson cornerback Darius Robinson; linebacker Jake Fischer and kicker Jake Smith from Arizona; and tight end Moses Alipate and wide receiver Victor Keise of Minnesota.
“These athletes are incredibly brave. They are well-aware of the risks of standing up to the NCAA, and yet they felt that this was the right thing to do,” Michael Hausfeld, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement.
Former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon is the lead plaintiff among 16 former college athletes in the long-running legal battle that could fundamentally alter how the NCAA operates. Basketball Hall of Famers Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson previously joined the lawsuit that also names video-game maker EA and the Collegiate Licensing Company.
A federal judge in Oakland, Calif., on July 5 allowed the attorneys to update their lawsuit to fix legal technicalities, including adding at least one active player to the lawsuit.
Garnham and Fischer are the most prominent players among the six new plaintiffs, all of whom are seniors.
Fischer is one of the Pac-12’s top linebackers. He led Arizona with 119 tackles last year.
Garnham led Vanderbilt with seven sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss.
Robinson has started six games in each of the last two seasons for the Tigers, though his season was cut short last year by an ankle injury in October.
Smith is a walk-on who missed last season with a knee injury and is competing for a starting job this season.
Alipate has not played at Minnesota in four seasons, including a redshirt year. Keise played 14 games over three seasons for the Gophers.
NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said the NCAA would reserve comment until it has had time to read the amended complaint filed Thursday.
The judge is still mulling whether to turn the lawsuit into a class action, representing thousands of current and former athletes. Such a ruling would be a significant legal victory for the players, exposing the NCAA and its member schools to billions of dollars in damage. The plaintiffs now demand the NCAA find a way to give players a cut of the billions of dollars earned from live broadcasts and memorabilia sales, along with video games.
The move to add current student-athletes to the suit comes a day after the NCAA announced that it would no longer allow EA to use its name and logo in video games.
Hausfeld called the NCAA’s decision to break ties with EA “petty and arrogant”
“It’s admission of a practice that goes to the heart of the contention that the NCAA believes it is above the law,” he said late Wednesday.
Osburn responded in a statement that the NCAA’s business relationship with EA only pertained to the logo and name.
“Student-athletes were never a part of this relationship and plaintiffs’ attorneys know it. Further, the $545,000 paid annually to the NCAA for the use of the logo and name goes right back to support student-athletes across all three divisions,” she said.