Thursday, January 31, 2013

Major Blow for NCAA in O'Bannon Case

Brian Palmer is junior in the Drexel Sport Management program and he previously attended the University of Pittsburgh before transferring to Drexel.


Only die hard basketball fans remember former star UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon as a former NCAA All-American. However, currently O’Bannon is currently at the center of a lawsuit that could forever change the landscape of the NCAA. In 2009 O’Bannon sued the NCAA disputing the NCAA’s stance on not paying NCAA for using their likeness in video games. 

However, last year O’Bannon amended the lawsuit to not only pursue money from the videogames but also the coveted television right of the NCAA. The NCAA strongly has contested the legality of the lawsuit; however, on Tuesday Judge Claudia Wilken issued a ruling that was a blow to the NCAA defense. Judge Wilkens ruled that it was legal O’Bannon’s class action lawsuit to pursue television deals.

Unlike players in the professional leagues such as the NHL, MLB, NBA, and NFL the players lack a union that can help them negotiate revenue from media and other licensing contracts that the NCAA currently has. The NCAA because they are under the amateurism status, do not treat their athletes like employees. As a result the student athletes interest are not represented fully.  Former college stars such as Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson have joined O'Bannon in the lawsuit on behalf of all Division I football and basketball players in football.

By dismissing the NCAA motion to prevent the football and basketball players from attempting to get a cut of revenues from broadcasting, Judge Wilkens has put the NCAA on notice.Wiken has told the NCAA and its licensing company, Collegiate Licensing Company, which joined the NCAA as co-defendants in the lawsuit, they have until June 20th to present an argument against the plaintiffs on “merits rather than procedural objections.” 

If the ruling goes the way of O’Bannon it will be a hard fought and won battle for college athletes past, present, and future. It will also force the NCAA to look at  its overall economic model something they are already being forced to do by other outside parties. While the fight is not over in the class action lawsuit between the NCAA and Ed O’Bannon, on Tuesday the O’Bannon side became a step closer to victory. 

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