NCAA, ex-college players ordered to hold settlement talks

The National Collegiate Athletic Association and ex-college athletes have been ordered to hold settlement talks in a lawsuit claiming the Indianapolis-based NCAA illegally blocks student players from profiting from the use of their images.

The players are seeking a share of $800 million a year in licensing fees for televised games in a lawsuit in Oakland, Calif. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken on Friday ordered both sides to meet with a magistrate judge in San Francisco for a settlement conference addressing the players’ antitrust and right-of-publicity claims.

The NCAA could face trial in June in the lawsuit by football and basketball players, part of a movement by college athletes to secure compensation and control over their images in a system that considers them amateurs. Wilken said Feb. 20 that a trial is needed after lawyers from each side tried to persuade her to rule in their favor without one.

NCAA says it doesn’t prevent players from profiting from their student athletic career once they leave school, and claims that its system of amateurism is legal and benefits students and fans.

The players allege that the NCAA conspires through contracts and other means to block them from negotiating their own licensing deals. Electronic Arts Inc. had also been sued along with NCAA for using student players’ images and likenesses in video games. The company has settled the case, although no agreement has yet been filed for Wilken’s approval.

Wilken huddled privately in the courtroom with attorneys for the NCAA, EA and players after a hearing last week for a discussion about settlement prospects.

“The NCAA will of course participate in the court-ordered mediation, however, we will continue to protect the core principles of the collegiate model,” Donald Remy, the group’s chief legal officer, said Friday in an e-mail.

Mike Hausfeld, an attorney for the players, didn’t immediately respond to a voice-mail message seeking comment on the order.

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