July 15, 2024

Ex-Kansas star Mario Chalmers latest to take aim at NCAA as crippling lawsuits mount despite House settlement

Facing a crowded convention hall last month hanging on his every word, NCAA president Charlie Baker said what the attendees at the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics came to hear: The settlement in the House vs. NCAA case had “put things behind us.”

Well, at least for a few weeks it turns out. A series of lawsuits that could conceivably cripple the NCAA by their sheer volume and potential damages have struck again. 

Where have we heard that before?

A new antitrust lawsuit seeking ongoing NIL rights for men’s basketball players from the 1997, 2008, 2011 and 2014 national champions, filed Monday, is seeking unspecified damages. It follows a similar complaint last month from the NC State national champions from 40 years ago.

The sheer scope of the actions puts those championships in a whole new light. The suit, Chalmers v. NCAA, essentially states that Kansas‘ Mario Chalmers’ game-tying shot in the national title of the 2008 NCAA Tournament against Memphis has been hijacked for profit on the NCAA.com website

It doesn’t stop there. The Power Five and Big East are also included in the suit for using images from former stars Sherron Collins (Kansas), Jason Terry (Arizona) and Ryan Boatright (UConn). There are 16 players in all. Other names may be added. 

And you thought the NCAA had achieved cost certainty with House. Ha! The association’s legal liability is merely getting hitched up to a different train headed off a different cliff. 

Remember, it was only six weeks ago the NCAA and its conferences agreed to that settlement, which will pay former athletes $2.7 billion in back damages over the next decade. The schools also agreed to implement revenue-sharing. When opted into, it is expected to provide as much as $22 million per year to athletes.  

“If the proposed settlement is accepted, it will bind the NCAA and all the schools in D-I for the next 10 years,” Baker told that same NACDA crowd last month. 

He forgot the part about his organization being a courtroom piñata for just about anything these days. Meanwhile, Pandora has been tapped on the shoulder in Chalmers v. NCAA. In Greek mythology, her box was a metaphor for great misfortune. 

Using a sports metaphor, it’s called piling on. In this case, what’s to keep any former roster of national champions from filing similar complaints? The answer is even more chilling for the NCAA. The case was filed as a class-action, which means all players from that period could be added. 

“The NCAA has for decades leveraged its monopoly power to exploit student-athletes from the moment they enter college until long after they end their collegiate careers,” the Chalmers complaint reads. 

Similar words have been included lately in almost every antitrust action against the NCAA and Power Five. By this point, it doesn’t necessarily matter if the complainants even have a case. They have the means, and anything that drains the NCAA of its financial will is significant at this point in history. The NCAA’s bank statement has certainly been nicked already, having faced $61.5 million in legal expenses in fiscal year 2023, according to USA Today. Since 2014, that total is $433 million. 

At what point does the membership’s patience run out when the association is averaging $1.18 million in legal expenses per week? Ten years? At this rate, the NCAA will run out of money to plug all the dikes in 10 months. 

You’d think the NCAA learned its lesson after O’Bannon, Alston, House and the conga line of legal entanglements that has gotten it to this point.  

How could the NCAA not address this issue, especially after crowing about legal certainty in House? (It is a settlement, by the way, that has yet to be approved.) Chalmers vs. NCAA looks a lot like that O’Bannon case that started this merry-go-round 15 years ago. In both cases, plaintiffs argued the NCAA used athletes’ likeness for commercial gain without the players’ permission.

You’d think the first thing the NCAA has to do is remove the highlights in question. As of publish, Chalmers’ game-tying shot against Memphis in the 2008 championship game can be seen on NCAA.com with an advertisement for Invesco QQQ. 

As for Chalmers himself in real time, the 38-year-old former NBA veteran and Kansas hero is playing in Ice Cube’s BIG3, still hitting big shots.