In this lawsuit on behalf of NCAA student-athletes against the NCAA and its most powerful members, plaintiffs claimed these entities violated federal antitrust laws by drastically reducing the number of scholarships and financial aid student-athletes receive to an amount below the actual cost of attendance and far below what the free market would bare.
In the $208 million settlement recovered by Hagens Berman as co-lead trial counsel, 100 percent of single damages in an exceptional result in an antitrust case. In June 2021, the injunctive portion of the case was decided when the Supreme Court agreed 9-0 that NCAA college athletes should legally be able to receive compensation from schools or conferences for athletic services other than cash compensation untethered to education-related expenses. The ruling prohibits the NCAA from enforcing rules limiting those payments.
The media called the firm’s victory in the scholarships case against the NCAA a “major ruling” (ABC World News Tonight), that “will change the game” (ABC Good Morning America), “…the highest court left the NCAA unhoused and naked, with nothing left but its pretensions,” (The Washington Post), it “delivered a heavy blow,” (AP), and leaves the NCAA “more vulnerable than ever.”
Hagens Berman has also taken on the NCAA for its failure to prevent concussions and protect student-athletes who suffered concussions. The firm finalized a settlement that will make sweeping changes to the NCAA’s approach to concussion treatment and prevention; provide a 50-year medical-monitoring program for student-athletes to screen for and track head injuries; and establish a $5 million fund for concussion research.
The core settlement benefits include:
- A 50-year medical monitoring program overseen by a medical science committee appointed by the court that will screen and track concussions. Examinations will include neurological and neurocognitive assessments to evaluate potential injuries. The monitoring program will be funded by a $70 million medical monitoring fund, paid by the NCAA and its insurers.
- Significant changes to and enforcement of the NCAA’s concussion management policies and return-to-play guidelines. All players will now receive a seasonal, baseline test to better assess concussions sustained during the season. All athletes who have sustained a concussion will now need to be cleared before returning to play, under the terms of the settlement. Additionally, a medical professional trained in the diagnosis of concussions will be present at all games involving contact-sports. The settlement also creates reporting mandates for concussions and their treatment.
Hagens Berman attorneys representing student-athletes who claimed that the NCAA illegally used student-athletes’ names, images and likenesses in Electronic Arts’ popular NCAA Football, Basketball and March Madness video game series reached a combined $60 million settlement with the NCAA and EA, marking the first time the NCAA has agreed to a settlement that pays student-athletes for acts related to their participation in athletics.
The firm also represents NFL legend Jim Brown in litigation against videogame manufacturer Electronic Arts for improperly using his likeness in its NFL video games.
“We began this case with the knowledge that the NCAA and member schools were resolute in keeping as much control over student-athletes as possible,” managing partner Steve Berman said. “But we were equally resolute that anyone – even a student-athlete playing under scholarship – should not be exploited for profit, especially by the organization that vowed to prevent the athlete from exploitation.”
The firm has continued efforts against the NCAA in an additional pending antitrust case regarding NIL rights. Since the firm’s filing of this case, and its monumental win in the Alston scholarships antitrust matter, the NCAA has temporarily lifted rules restricting certain NIL deals.
Hagens Berman filed a class-action suit against USA Water Polo alleging that the entity has neglected to enact concussion and head injury safety measures. The case arises from USA Water Polo’s failure to take steps to recognize, manage and appropriately treat head injuries and concussions. The governing body for the sport allegedly failed to implement even a scant amount of concussion management care for its participants, representing an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of care.
Soccer players filed a class action against FIFA, soccer’s worldwide governing body, and affiliated soccer organizations in the U.S. The players alleged that these groups failed to adopt effective policies to evaluate and manage concussions, which are a common occurrence at all levels. They also claimed that a lack of effective policies poses a greater danger to women and children players, who are more vulnerable to traumatic and long-lasting brain injury. The case brought sweeping changes to soccer safety protocols in U.S. Soccer and fully eliminated heading of the ball for the sports youngest players.
In the lawsuit, players claimed that despite participating in and even hosting these conferences, soccer’s governing bodied failed to enact the policies and rules needed to protect soccer players. The players alleged that “returning a player to play before fully recovered negligently puts him or her at risk of a permanent brain injury.”
Hagens Berman represented youth athletes who have suffered traumatic brain injuries due to gross negligence, and filed a lawsuit on behalf of former Pop Warner football player Donnovan Hill and his mother Crystal Dixon. The suit claimed that the league insisted Hill use improper and dangerous tackling techniques which left him paralyzed from the neck down. Pop Warner, its affiliates, Hill’s coaches and members of the Lakewood Pop Warner board of directors are liable for the coaches’ repeated and incorrect instruction that Hill and his teammates tackle opposing players by leading with the head.
Sadly, Donnovan passed away following the firm’s secured settlement for him and his mother against Pop Warner. The firm continues to fight for safety in youth sports.
In addition to its class actions, Hagens Berman has filed several individual cases to uphold the rights of athletes and ensure a fair and safe environment. The firm has filed multiple individual cases to address concussions and other traumatic head injuries among student-athletes at NCAA schools and in youth sports. Hagens Berman continues to represent the interests of athletes and find innovative and effective applications of the law to uphold players' rights.
The firm has also brought many concussions cases on behalf of individual athletes, challenging large universities and institutions for the rights those who have suffered irreversible damage due to gross negligence and lack of even the most basic concussion-management guidelines.