Two Gophers football players have joined a high-profile lawsuit against the NCAA over its use of player images and likenesses without being compensated.
The players, tight end Moses Alipate and wide receiver Victor Keise, were among six current college players added as plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against the NCAA and its business partners, the video game maker Electronic Arts and the Collegiate Licensing Company.
Both players, who were unavailable for comment Friday, have played little for the Gophers. A 6-5 senior who starred at Bloomington Jefferson High School, Alipate never has played in a game for the school. Keise, a 6-1 senior from Florida, has caught one pass in three years for the team.
“We are aware that two members of our football program are now plaintiffs in the [lawsuit],” said Chris Werle, the school’s associate athletic director.
“This is not a football matter, but an NCAA and legal issue and we will allow the NCAA to provide comment.”
Michael Hausfeld, a lead plaintiff’s attorney in the case, said in a statement that “these athletes are incredibly brave. They are well aware of the risks of standing up to the NCAA, and yet they felt that this was the right thing to do.”
The case features several prominent former college athletes, including former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon, and accuses the NCAA of selling the names, images and likenesses of players without compensation to the players.
Hausfeld claims that the NCAA and its business partners have “reaped billions of dollars” through the licensing and sale of game footage, video games, apparel and other memorabilia.
Hausfeld and Gregory Curtner, an attorney for the NCAA, have verbally clashed over whether the NCAA would retaliate against current athletes who joined in litigation against the governing body for college athletics. In a letter last week, Curtner accused Hausfeld of “grandstanding for the press” by alleging that current players joining in the lawsuit might face retaliation.
Curtner said two plaintiffs — former college and pro basketball stars Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson — recently were named to the NCAA’s All-Time Players’ Team despite being plaintiffs in the O’Bannon case.
As the widely publicized case moves forward, the NCAA recently announced that it would not enter into a new contract for the popular EA Sports NCAA Football video game. In a statement, the NCAA said that “we are confident in our legal position regarding the use of our trademarks in video games. But given the current business climate and costs of litigation, we determined participating in this game is not in the best interests of the NCAA.
“The NCAA has never licensed the use of current student-athlete names, images or likenesses to EA,” the statement added.