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Tennessee, Virginia AGs file antitrust lawsuit against NCAA due to NIL-recruiting rules

Attorney generals of Tennessee and Virginia filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA, challenging the ban of name, image and likeness (NIL) compensation in college athlete recruitment on Wednesday. 

The lawsuit, which was filed in the Eastern District of Tennessee, also comes in response to the NCAA’s investigation into the University of Tennessee for potential recruiting violations related to NIL deals that were agreed upon between athletes and a booster-funded organization called The Vol Club, an NIL collective run by Spyre Sports group. 

This lawsuit is aiming to disrupt the association’s rules against recruiting tactics, claiming the NCAA is “enforcing rules that unfairly restrict how athletes can commercially use their name, image and likeness at a critical juncture in the recruiting calendar.”

While the investigation is going on, Tennessee AG Jonathan Skrmetti and Virginia AG Jason Miyares are asking the court for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, which would not allow the NCAA to enforce NIL recruiting rules during the lawsuit. They are requesting the court to issue those by Feb. 6. 

“This legal action would exacerbate what our members themselves have frequently described as a ‘wild west’ atmosphere, further tilting competitive imbalance among schools in neighboring states, and diminishing protections for student-athletes from potential exploitation,” the NCAA said in a statement.

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“The NCAA remains firmly committed to protecting and expanding student-athletes’ NIL rights and opportunities. However, our membership has steadfastly supported the prohibition on impermissible recruiting contacts, booster involvement in recruiting prospects and the use of NIL offers as recruiting inducements.”

The University of Tennessee has been vocal about this NCAA investigation, with chancellor Donde Plowman giving a harsh response to the association. 

Tennessee basketball court

Plowman wrote a letter to NCAA president Charlie Baker, who has been trying to work with lawmakers to regulate NIL compensation and have an antitrust exemption to allow the NCAA to govern it without lawsuits like this occurring.

Plowman’s letter, which came after the university met with NCAA officials to discuss the allegations, said the NCAA owed it to students and their families to act in their best interests. 

“Instead, 2 1/2 years of vague and contradictory NCAA memos, emails and ‘guidance’ about name, image and likeness (NIL) has created extraordinary chaos that student-athletes and institutions are struggling to navigate,” Plowman’s letter read. “In short, the NCAA is failing.”

Tennessee Volunteers logo on basketball shorts

“At Tennessee, we are always going to work to support our student-athletes’ rights and give them all the tools needed to succeed on and off the field,” athletic director Danny White tweeted in response to Plowman’s letter. “This is what strong leadership looks like!”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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