Law Firms Back Robertson’s Suit

The law firms representing Oscar Robertson and other former college athletes filing suit against the NCAA and others over the use of their likenesses on trading cards and other products say it’s a “major antitrust violation”.

Robertson, a Basketball Hall of Famer, has filed suit in the Northern District of California against the NCAA and others for the commercial exploitation of his image, likeness and name without his consent.

“The issue first came to Mr. Robertson’s attention when fans sent him current trading cards for signing that had pictures of him in his University of Cincinnati playing days—cards that Mr. Robertson had not authorized or even known about,” attorneys Stanley Chesley and Bill Markovits stated in the release.

The lawsuit alleges that the NCAA and others have illegally licensed, and received compensation for, the images and likenesses of former college athletes including Robertson.

Chesley, of the Cincinnati-based law firm of Waite, Schneider, Bayless & Chesley Co., L.P.A.,  a nationally known litigation firm, is Robertson’s primary counsel.

“Oscar, who for decades has fought for players’ rights, has joined this suit to protect the interests of former, current and future college athletes,” Chelsey stated.  ” The NCAA and others have conspired to cash in on former athletes’ names and likenesses, while denying them any payment.  That is fundamentally unfair; it is reprehensible; and it is, in fact, the definition of a major antitrust violation.”

Said Robertson,   “Our coaches taught us that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things.  What the NCAA and these for-profit companies have done to college athletes is flat wrong.  I am proud to bring this lawsuit on behalf of former college players.”

Getting a well respected and well-known player like Robertson on board is considered by many to be a coup for the former athletes, a group that also includes former UCLA standout Ed O’Bannon.  The NCAA, however, has denied any wrongdoing in making its deals with trading card makers and others who use images of the players in their college uniforms.

The suit isn’t Robertson’s first anti-trust litigation.  He sued the NBA as an active player, seeking to end restrictions that bound a player to his team in perpetuity.  The 1970 lawsuit essentially blocked the planned NBA-ABA merger until it was settled in 1976 and resulted in the free agency rules that now govern the NBA.