Ed O'Bannon vs NCAA Lawsuit Update: Judge's Ruling a Win for Both Sides, Former UCLA Basketball Star Pushes OnBy Russell Westerholm, UniversityHerald Reporter
A couple weeks ago, Judge Claudia Wilken ruled Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit against the NCAA may receive class certification, with a major caveat stating current and former college athletes would have to seek compensation on their own.
According to the New York Times, Wilken, who has been presiding over the lawsuit, simply did not allow the group of complainants to seek damages together. The decision was apparently a win for both sides, but the NCAA likely needed it more.
Still, the O'Bannon camp told the Associated Press Wednesday the lawsuit is still on as it heads for a courtroom some time in June. Now about 20 current and former athletes who joined O'Bannon's side are left without what the originally joined for in the first place: compensation.
For the NCAA, the ruling was a win, for O'Bannon, it was a minor setback. The plaintiff's lead attorney, Michael Hausfield, said there are still current and former student-athletes who want to file a suit for their part of the billions of dollars the NCAA profits off of their names and likenesses.
"We've been contacted by scores of individuals who now want to bring their own claims," Hausfeld told the AP. "It's generated a significant amount of interest."
The original complainant, O'Bannon will still seek damages for himself. If he wins, it could open the floodgates for current and former student-athletes to seek similar claims and cause the NCAA to pay out huge sums.
"It might make it less likely NCAA pays damages for past conduct but it leaves very open the possibility of substantial organization altering changes to the NCAA," said Marc Edelman, an associate professor of law at City University of New York who specializes in sports and antitrust law. "There's a possibility at the end of the day that college sports reverts to the way it operated prior to 1951 where the power to make decisions in commercial matters is addressed on the school and conference level."
O'Bannon originally filed a lawsuit when he saw his name and likeness being used in a college basketball video game. He was a major contributor to UCLA's national championship run in 1995. The lawsuit was originally against the NCAA, EA Sports (the maker of the video game) and Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC).
The NCAA announced it had severed ties with EA Sports' college football video game franchise and, shortly after the video game company said it would no longer produce it. CLC and EA settled out of the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount, but the NCAA stood firm and will continue battling as long as O'Bannon does.
The case refers to Football Bowl Subdivision and college basketball, the two highest grossing collegiate sports by far, and its current and former athletes. If O'Bannon and subsequent complainants win their cases, amateurism could quickly die and the student-athlete may be no more.