College tennis star files lawsuit over NCAA rule restricting players from earning prize money

The advent of name, image, and likeness (NIL) continues to fuel a firestorm across the college sports landscape.

NCAA rules stipulate that top college football players and any other sort of athlete can collect lucrative payments in exchange for their autograph, their image appearing in an advertisement, and more under current NIL policies.

However, some athletes participate in individual sports where prize money is often attached to a given tournament or event. Currently, college tennis players who are awarded money for winning an event are strictly prohibited from collecting their winnings. The rule also applies to swimmers, gymnasts and others.

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Reese Brantmeier and partner Reilly Tran of North Carolina at play during the Division I Womens Tennis Championship against NC State at the USTA National Campus on May 20, 2023, in Orlando, Florida. (Preston Mack/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

But, North Carolina Tar Heels star tennis player Reese Brantmeier is fighting back against the rules that have likely cost her tens of thousands of dollars. Brantmeier was forced to begin forgoing payments when she started competing in professional tennis tournaments around the age of 14.

Collecting payments could have put her college eligibility in jeopardy.

Brantmeier suffered a season-ending injury in February. She also recently added her name to the growing list of athletes who oppose the NCAA rulebook as it relates to NIL.

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“Over the last three years, tens of millions of dollars have flowed with the NCAA’s knowledge and acquiescence, to mostly male student-athletes in the Power Conferences from third-party, booster-funded and operated collectives that are associated with virtually all NCAA FBS-level athletic departments and which sprung up in 2021 in the wake of the NCAA’s temporary suspension of its rules prohibiting name, image and likeness payments,” the lawsuit stated.

“While these tens of millions of dollars have been paid to student-athletes under the guise of acquiring rights to utilize their NIL, the vast majority of the money is in reality ‘pay-for-play’ compensation to student-athletes that has little or no relation to the actual market value for the supposed NIL services that the student-athletes must provide ‘in exchange’ for that compensation.”

The NCAA logo outside its headquarters on Feb. 28, 2023, in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

The lawsuit was filed against the NCAA in the U.S. District Court in North Carolina, requesting the judiciary stop the association from separating athletes who participate in individual sports from their winnings.

Brantmeier also recently spoke out against the NCAA rulebook, saying it was “ridiculous” that college football and basketball players were allowed to reap NIL benefits.

Reese Brantmeier of North Carolina hits a forehand against NC State at the USTA National Campus on May 20, 2023, in Orlando. (Preston Mack/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

“It’s ridiculous to watch basketball and football players earning hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that is OK under the name, image and likeness (NIL) rules, and then see us work just as hard and say we can’t earn money directly from our sport,” Brantmeier said last week.

The NCAA did not immediately respond to a request from Fox News Digital seeking comment on the rule Brantmeier is contesting.

Brantmeier is currently the second-ranked player in singles in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. She is also part of the top-ranked doubles team in the nation, alongside her partner Elizabeth Scotty.

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Chantz Martin is a sports writer for Fox News Digital.

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