What You Should Know About O’Bannon v. NCAA And How It Could Affect Collegiate Sports   Leave a comment

Monday in a federal courtroom, one of the most important cases in regards to collegiate athletics began with opening arguments in O’Bannon v. NCAA. Think Progress has a detailed breakdown of the case and its’ implications; here’s a few bullet points of interest…

  • At issue, O’Bannon is a case dealing with the basic NCAA economic model and how it applies to fair & equitable compensation of collegiate athletes and whether they should be compensated in regards to broadcast, video game and other revenue streams which currently are shared between the NCAA, individual colleges and universities and other entities of note, such as EA Sports (which settled a similar lawsuit recently) and Collegiate Licensing Company. While Ed O’Bannon, the plaintiff of note and others – past & present – are not seeking recompense on past earnings, they seek to ensure that college athletes are not blocked from receiving earnings from future revenues
  • The principal players: At the heart of the case is former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, who initially sued the NCAA and other groups over the use of his likeness in various media (including several EA Sports’ video games) without due compensation. Opposite O’Bannon and the other collegiate athletes involved are the NCAA – led by president Mark Emmert, while overseeing the bench trial is seniro U.S. District Ct. Judge Claudia Wilken.
  • At focus is whether collegiate athletes should be better compensated for the use of their likenesses’ by the NCAA and other organizations; presently, athletes receive zero compensation during their collegiate careers and can face, depending on the athlete in question, various penalties from the NCAA. In contrast, the NCAA argues that changing the structure of compensation could radically alter the very nature of collegiate athletics (although, to be quite honest, the NCAA could dodge that particular bailiwick by asking that college football – the largest of any collegiate sport at present – be exempted from the three-part test used to ensure collegiate compliance with Title IX of the 1964 Civil Rights Act).

Now that we know the basics, two more things come to mind:

  • What happens if the athletes win? The plaintiffs’ goal in this case is at present, to ask the court to require the NCAA to compensate current collegiate athletes by an amount as yet unspecified (most reports put the figure at around 50% of current revenues) and to require the NCAA to get approval from collegiate athletes before using their likenesses in the future.
  • When could we hear the end result of this case? That depends…months earlier, Judge Wilker ordered both sides into court-brokered mediation…and that went nowhere fast. This time, the court may decide to let both sides argue their respective cases before the bench – with the proviso of a binding decision from Judge WIlken. Of course, this could prompt both sides into settling before such a decision is made (as hinted in this Sports Illustrated article)…however, reports are that the NCAA has little, if any, incentive to go for a settlement, instead choosing to gamble on a bench decision to their liking.

As to that last point above…even if the plaintiffs win in court, don’t expect anything to happen until the case winds its’ way through the appellate system first.

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Posted June 10, 2014 by Matthew in Uncategorized

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