Ex-UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon and 20 other plaintiffs are hoping that federal judge, Claudia Wilken, will stop the NCAA from having athletes sign off on profiting from their “likeness” which they claim is “unfairly” used in merchandise, stock footage, televised games and even ticket sales. The trial begins Monday in Oakland, Calif.
Some online sources seem to think Wilken has already all but decided in favor of the amateur athletes in this antitrust class action lawsuit. In fact, at a previous summary judgment hearing she stated “I don’t think amateurism is going to be a useful word here.” Additionally, she has denied requests to delay the trial several times.
The NCAA is arguing that regardless of what amateurism constitutes the rules level the playing field between all of the teams and draw fans. If there is no marketable interest in the amateur athletes’ images without the rules then the plaintiff’s arguments could very well be moot.
Salt Lake sports attorney Mark O. Van Wagoner told the press he believes the rules are meant to “replicate the sort of competition that has always existed between colleges, before there was so much money in it. I think they can argue that that’s an important product, and that people want to see that.”
O’Bannon and company think that college athletes should be able to “negotiate for group licensing contracts.” They think that the profits could be deposited into a trust fund they could access after leaving college. Their supporters claim that the licenses that earn the NCAA approximately $4 billion annually would not amount to that much once divided between thousands of amateur athletes.
Some sources state that the various beneficiaries of different “endorsement deals” such as Johnny Manziels and the Jabari Parkers would be the ones to gain the most from the success of the suit. Those who would stand to lose the most would be all the amateur athletes in “mom-revenue sports” and athletic department staff.
Chris Hill, Utah athletic director noted that this ruling potentially threatens the very foundation of the present “student-athlete model”. He concluded that if O’Bannon succeeds against the NCAA then “you have to decide if that model’s worth it. If that model can be sustained. Do people still go to school? And if they don’t go to school, why would a university attach its reputation to a semi-professional team?” Indeed, many believe this could mean the end of college sports as we know it.
O’Bannon v. NCAA: Amateur Athletics Or Easy Money?