State Attorneys General Join Antitrust Lawsuit Against NCAA

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The attorneys general claim that a transfer eligibility rule that requires many multi-time transfer athletes to sit out more than a season violates state and federal antitrust law.

A coalition of seven state attorneys general have filed a lawsuit against the NCAA’s transfer eligibility policy, alleging that the organization’s controversial rule constitutes a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

According to The Athletic, the so-called transfer eligibility rule, enacted in April of 2021, requires multi-time transfer athletes to sit out at least a year and forgo a season of eligibility unless they are granted a rare waiver or exemption.

The lawsuit was filed earlier this week in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia. The states participating in the claim include Ohio, Colorado, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

In their complaint, the attorneys general say that the transfer rule is unlawful, and have since asked a court to grant an injunction preventing the NCAA from enforcing it.

“We’re suing the NCAA over its illegal transfer rule,” North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein told The News & Observer in an interview. “The rule flaunts federal antitrust law and is an illegal restrain of trade on student-athletes.”

“We’re seeking the court to strike down the rule immediately so that basketball players caught up in its web, here in North Carolina and across the country, can get on the court,” Stein said.

A spokesperson for Dave Yost, the attorney general of Ohio, told The Athletic that time is of the essence in the states’ complaint.

A basketball. Image via Miss_color/Pixabay. (CCA-BY-0.0)

“We will hear from the court once this is assigned to a judge about how quickly they can have our first conference. We’re asking for emergency relief here,” he said. “Every day that goes by here is continuing harm. I hope to get a preliminary hearing in a matter of days, not weeks.”

Yost also told The Athletic that he and other attorneys general elected to file the lawsuit now because the NCAA’s transfer rule has begun having a significant impact on student-athletes.

Cincinnati player Aziz Bandaogo, for instance, was recently denied a mental health waiver for immediate eligibility, prompting Yost to ask the NCAA for a detailed explanation—a request that the NCAA purportedly refused to entertain, denying it without consideration.

“Why today?” Yost asked. “Because the NCAA didn’t want to talk to us a few weeks ago, and today is as quick as we could get it done.”

Although Bandaogo was eventually granted his waiver, the attorneys general say that many other student-athletes are awaiting an answer.

“We only name a couple for illustration purposes,” Yost said. “Candidly, we didn’t have to put any in here, because we’re not suing on behalf of the kids—we’re suing on behalf of the state’s interest in a competitive marketplace and enforcing antitrust laws.”

In a statement, Stein said that the explanations the NCAA has so far provided in defense of the transfer eligibility rule make little sense.

“The NCAA has long claimed that the transfer rule is necessary to give students time to acclimate, but the justification doesn’t make sense for student-athletes who are in good academic standing,” he said. “Coaches come and go as is best for their careers and families—students should enjoy that same freedom.”


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