By Anne Burke
Penn and the other seven Ivy League schools were named yesterday in a class action antitrust lawsuit alleging that their “Ivy League Agreement” violates antitrust laws.
Tamenang Choh and Grace Kirk, who were recruited to play and have played for Brown’s basketball team, brought the lawsuit on behalf of a class of fellow current and former Ivy League collegiate athletes. Choh is a Brown graduate and Kirk is a current Brown student.
The suit alleges that under the “Ivy League Agreement,” the Ivy League schools agree not to award athletic scholarships nor compensate or reimburse education-related expenses incurred by the approximately 8,000 Ivy League student athletes each year for their athletic services. The lawsuit alleges that this agreement constitutes unlawful price fixing in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
The Ivy League is the only NCAA Division-I athletic conference that prohibits, by agreement among its member schools, athletic scholarships and forbids the compensation or reimbursement of collegiate athletes for their athletic services.
The Complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, seeking treble damages for a class of current and former Ivy League athletes (going back to March 7, 2018) and an injunction to end the Ivy League Agreement and any similar contract, combination, or conspiracy by the Defendants.
“We hope that this lawsuit will bring Ivy League athletics into the 21st century by subjecting these universities’ treatment of Ivy League athletes to the antitrust laws, just as the courts have applied such laws to all other NCAA Division I athletic programs,” said Eric Cramer, one of the lawyers for the Ivy athletes.
Cramer is chairman of the nationally recognized complex commercial litigation firm Berger Montague, which is based in Center City Philly.
“We intend to demonstrate in this lawsuit that academically prestigious universities can comply with the antitrust laws with respect to their academically and athletically high-achieving students and still maintain their institutions’ reputations for academic excellence,” said Robert Litan, a senior antitrust shareholder and litigator at Berger Montague, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, and an economist with more than four decades of published economic research.
“The Ivy League agreement is particularly egregious given the huge amounts of money these schools have in their endowments. Where hundreds of Division I schools with much fewer resources compete without limits on athletic scholarships and compensation or reimbursement, the Ivy League schools have no excuse for not doing the same,” said Ted Normand, co-counsel for the proposed class and a founding partner of Freedman Normand Friedland LLP.
The Defendants are Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Yale University, and the Ivy League Council of Presidents.