University of Oregon female athletes file class action sex discrimination lawsuit against their school
The GIST: Last Friday, 26 women’s beach volleyball players and six rowers from the University of Oregon filed a class action sex discrimination lawsuit against the school. The plaintiffs are claiming the university’s distribution of NIL resources between male and female athletes is unequal, and a potential Title IX violation. Clearly doing something wrong.
Title IX: The landmark piece of 1972 legislation transformed women’s sports in the U.S. by preventing federally-funded educational institutions from sex-based discrimination, meaning school athletic programs must offer all athletes equal opportunity. If Oregon offered male athletes disproportionate NIL support, this could fall under the purview of Title IX.
The details: The 115-page complaint asserts Oregon provided male student-athletes better NIL-related training, opportunities, and income through NIL collective Division Street and marketplace Opendorse. Neither entity is named as a defendant, however — the suit holds the Ducks responsible for misusing their services to give men preferential treatment.
The data: In July, The Oregonian reported that the university was likely deficient in at least five of the nine areas Title IX covers. This supports ESPN’s recent data that found 84% of Power 5 schools, including Oregon, mentioned their men’s teams more than their women’s on X this February.
The trend: While women student-athletes field fewer NIL deals overall, their social engagement is much higher. In 2022, women student-athletes garnered 4x the audience engagement and 7x more engagement per deal compared to men.
- Plus, recent SponsorUnited data indicated that women comprise the top seven athletes with the most new NIL deal signings in 2023 — all ahead of No. 8, USC quarterback Caleb Williams.
Zooming out: The NIL landscape currently resembles the wild west and the NCAA is still figuring out how to pay and promote its athletes. The outcome of the Oregon case could set a precedent for all schools in the NIL era, which is why universities — and brands — should keep Title IX front of mind. Time to bridge the gap.