High-profile sports and labor attorney Jeffrey Kessler, also a Thomson Reuters key author, filed an antitrust lawsuit on behalf of college football and men’s basketball players in a New Jersey federal court Monday, naming the NCAA and the five richest power conferences — the SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12 and Big 12 — as defendants. The suit seeks an injunction against the NCAA’s rules limiting athlete’s compensation, labeling it “price-fixing.” If successful, the suit would allow players to be paid beyond their athletic scholarships.

“The main objective is to strike down permanently the restrictions that prevent athletes in Division I basketball and the top tier of college football from being fairly compensated for the billions of dollars in revenues that they help generate,” Kessler told ESPN. “We’re looking to change the system, that’s the main goal.”

Under the NCAA model, financial aid, better known as an athletic scholarship, is essentially capped at tuition, books, room and board. The power conferences have pushed the idea of altering scholarships to include full cost of attendance, and are currently seeking greater autonomy within the NCAA’s legislative structure in order to enact such measures.

The suit lists four current or recent NCAA athletes as plaintiffs: Clemson defensive back Martin Jenkins, Rutgers basketball player J.J. Moore, UTEP tight end Kevin Perry, and Cal tight end Bill Tyndall. Kessler said more current players will be added to the lawsuit, which seeks certification as a class action. The suit does not seek class action damages, but the four players seek individual damages.

Kessler has an extensive history working with professional player unions such as the NFL and NBA Players’ Associations, and is one of the most prominent lawyers in the country regularly engaged in high-profile sports litigation. He has litigated some of the most famous sports-antitrust cases in history, including McNeil v. the NFL, the landmark antitrust jury trial which led to the establishment of free agency in the National Football League (NFL), and Brady v. NFL, which led to the end of the 2011 NFL lockout.

Kessler is a partner with Winston & Strawn in New York and serves as the head of the global antitrust/competition practice. Additionally, he co-chairs the sports law practice group and serves on the firm’s Executive Committee. He is the author of International Trade and U.S. Antitrust law, 2d, published by Thomson Reuters.

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