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The National Collegiate Athletic Association and its five dominant conferences are an "unlawful cartel" that has illegally restricted the earning power of football and men's basketball players while making billions off their labor, according to a federal lawsuit filed Monday that seeks to paint big-time college athletics as being in blatant violation of antitrust laws.
The suit comes on the eve of the NCAA men's Division I basketball tournament, college sports' most prominent showcase. In addition to the NCAA, the lawsuit targets the Southeastern Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference, Pac-12, Big Ten and Big 12, and seeks monetary damages as well as a declaration that the defendants' practices violate federal antitrust laws.
"As a result of these illegal restrictions, market forces have been shoved aside and substantial damages have been inflicted upon a host of college athletes whose services have yielded riches only for others," according to the court filing. "This class action is necessary to end the NCAA's unlawful cartel, which is inconsistent with the most fundamental principles of antitrust law."
The suit seeks triple damages for the four plaintiffs - Rutgers basketball player Johnathan "J.J." Moore, Clemson football player Martin Jenkins, Texas-El Paso football player Kevin Perry and California football player William Tyndall - based on the economic harm they say they suffered. The court filing estimated that, for instance, Clemson's athletic department "generated more than $70 million in revenue, the vast majority of which came from football" in 2012 when Jenkins was playing.