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Judge bars NCAA from enforcing parts of its NIL policy for student-athletes

By Jamiel Lynch, CNN

(CNN) — A Tennessee judge has temporarily blocked the NCAA from enforcing parts of its interim policy that would have restricted how student athletes negotiate compensation for their names, images and likeness. The ruling dealt a significant setback to the NCAA’s attempts to rein in pay for students who play sports at its universities.

The so-called NIL policy included NCAA bylaws that would have prohibited student athletes from negotiating with any third-party entity, including schools or boosters.

The lawsuit, filed by the attorneys general of Tennessee and Virginia, alleges that the NCAA’s rules restricting student-athletes’ ability “to negotiate and benefit from” their NIL likely violate federal antitrust law and “are harmful to current and future student-athletes,” according to a press release from Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares’ office, which was sent when the lawsuit was initially filed.

The attorneys general’s lawsuit comes amid NIL- related allegations that the NCAA’s enforcement staff “intends to bring” against the University of Tennessee, according to a letter from the school’s chancellor. In her letter, Chancellor Donde Plowman called the NCAA’s allegations “factually untrue and procedurally flawed.”

Those allegations reportedly involve a representation agreement that UT quarterback Nico Iamaleava entered into with sports marketing and media agency Spyre Sports Group.

In his order, US District Judge Clifton L. Corker said, “The NCAA’s prohibition likely violates federal antitrust law and harms student-athletes. Accordingly, Plaintiffs State of Tennessee and Commonwealth of Virginia, who initiated this action … on behalf of their student-athletes, are entitled to a preliminary injunction enjoining enforcement of the NCAA’s ‘NIL-recruiting ban.’”

The judge said the plaintiffs’ antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA was likely to succeed. He noted that the NIL rules the NCAA wanted to put in place would have prevented student athletes from discovering the true value of their name, image and likeness’ worth on the open market.

To be sure, it is pure speculation to assume that student-athletes would receive more lucrative NIL deals in an open market. Fair market value may be equal to or less than the NIL deals student-athletes can currently receive after selecting a school. But without the give and take of a free market, student-athletes simply have no knowledge of their true NIL value. It is this suppression of negotiating leverage and the consequential lack of knowledge that harms student-athletes,” he wrote.

In a statement, an NCAA spokesman said it wants students to be able to make money off their names, images and likeness, but it wanted to create one set of rules for all its schools to create a level playing field across states that have different sets of regulations.

“Turning upside down rules overwhelmingly supported by member schools will aggravate an already chaotic collegiate environment, further diminishing protections for student-athletes from exploitation. The NCAA fully supports student-athletes making money from their name, image and likeness and is making changes to deliver more benefits to student-athletes, but an endless patchwork of state laws and court opinions make clear partnering with Congress is necessary to provide stability for the future of all college athletes.”

CNN has reached out to attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case for comment.

CNN’s Jacob Lev contributed to this report.

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