A former college football running back from Northern Illinois has filed suit in Chicago federal court against daily fantasy sports sites FanDuel and DraftKings, alleging the two used his name, and others, to generate millions of dollars in revenue.
Akeem Daniels, filed his lawsuit on Wednesday, against Boston-based DraftKings, and New York-based FanDuel, and is seeking class action status—with each seeking at least $5 million in damages—his suit mentions at least 15 other names of student-athletes from NIU who appeared in games on the site. Daniels’ suit reads that these websites have “immeasurably altered the college football and basketball environment” while leaving athletes in a state of “fear and concern of the risk of being contacted by speculators who have a financial interest.”
“In addition to the reasonable concern that speculators may urge that [football and basketball players] adjust their performance in response to the speculators’ stated desires,” the lawsuit argues, “Defendant’s unlawful business model puts [athletes] at unwanted risk of contact with speculators whose interests align with corruption in the form of fixed outcomes and point-shaving.”
Essentially, Daniels has implied that athletes fear outside parties might contact them, and pressure them into cheating, to line their pockets.
In December, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, daughter of Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan, issued opinion opining that the contests offered by the sites “clearly constitute gambling” while at the same time making sure to note that the state’s criminal code “prohibits the playing of both ‘games of chance or skill for money.'” At the time, she asked the industry leaders to add Illinois to their do not disturb list, meaning a state whose residents cannot participate until legislation is passed to specifically exempt the contests. The very next day, both companies filed suit, separately, against Madigan, arguing their contests are legal.
Andrew Goldstein, of the Chicago law firm Freeborn and Peters, told the Chicago Tribune that the lawsuits assertion of putting players at risk, or being pressured to perform a specific way, possibly to the point forced involvement in point shaving or game fixing, is “a stretch.” He added that since it’s already legal to gamble on college sports in America, it could be argued in court it’s already a possibility.
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“The fact that it would cause speculators to contact them is irrelevant to the right of publicity claim,” Goldstein said to the Tribune.
Last June, in Nashville, Tenn., a federal district court dismissed current and former student-athlete’s claim that television networks, the NCAA, and other licensing businesses, conspired against them to create rules that would deprive the college athletes from compensation for the licensing and use of their names and likeness.
Similarly, the mainstream Ed O’Bannon lawsuit against the NCAA and EA Sports, is something even the simplest of lawyers could point to as possible legal precedent. Just last September, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower courts ruling in which it had determined the NCAA had in fact violated antitrust laws by limiting student-athlete compensation, but simultaneously ruled against a proposal to pay college athletes as much as $5,000 annually.
This isn’t the first time a group, or single athlete, has filed suit against daily fantasy sites—Washington Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon filed one similar on behalf of NFL players in October, alleging the sites were profiting off of players’ names.