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December 14, 2023

University of Oregon Female Athletes File Title IX Lawsuit Alleging Disparate Treatment in NIL Opportunities

A group of 32 University of Oregon female athletes recently filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against their institution, alleging that the university violated Title IX by “depriving [them] of equal treatment, equal athletic financial aid, and equal opportunities to participate in varsity athletics.” Class Action Complaint at 4, Schroeder v. Univ. of Or., No. 23-01806 (D. Or. Dec. 1, 2023), ECF No. 1. These benefits include those received through Oregon’s NIL collective, Division Street, and Opendorse, which hosts the Ducks’ official NIL marketplace.

NIL collectives, as defined by the IRS, are “structurally independent of a school, yet fund NIL opportunities for the school’s student-athletes.” Internal Revenue Serv., Name Image Likeness Collectives – Taxpayer Advocate Service (Oct. 23, 2023). Although Division Street is a separate legal entity from the University, Plaintiffs seek to hold the University responsible for what they allege are disparate opportunities the NIL collective provided female athletes as compared to their male counterparts. For example, Plaintiffs allege in the lawsuit that members of the football team are “given so much publicity and NIL support that Oregon’s quarterback, running back, and wide receiver are listed in On3’s NIL 100 list as, respectively, the 8th, 28th, and 76th highest NIL recipients in the country, [while] the women’s beach volleyball players receive so little publicity and NIL support that none of them—or any other Oregon female student-athlete—receives anywhere near the amounts mentioned on the list.” Class Action Complaint at 6, Schroeder, No. 23-01806 (D. Or. Dec. 1, 2023), ECF No. 1.

Title IX requires schools to provide “equivalence in the availability, quality and kinds of other athletic benefits and opportunities provided to male and female athletes.” Mansourian v. Regents of Univ. of Cal., 602 F.3d 957, 964-65 (9th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation omitted). Therefore, collaborations between collectives and schools could implicate Title IX. This lawsuit may provide greater clarity on the applicability of Title IX to these collectives.

For other posts about the intersection of Title IX and NIL, see:

The Name, Image, and Likeness (“NIL”) Frontier and Impact on Student Athletes: Part I

The Name, Image, and Likeness (“NIL”) Frontier and Impact on Student Athletes: Part II

This publication is intended for general informational purposes only. The reader should not act upon this information without seeking professional legal counsel.