Ed O'Bannon Lawsuit UPDATE: Plaintiffs Argue NCAA Does Not Clearly Define Amateurism in Series of FilingsBy Russell Westerholm, UniversityHerald Reporter
In response to the NCAA's motion for summary judgment, lawyers for the Ed O'Bannon plaintiffs argued the NCAA has a varying definition of amateurism.
AL.com reported the two filings are part of a series leading up to a motions hearing on Feb. 20 and a trial set to begin in June. The O'Bannon plaintiffs contended the NCAA has different definitions of amateurism, may not see to its student-athletes being properly educated and argued that televised broadcasts are commercial speech.
The lawsuit came about when O'Bannon sued the NCAA, EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) for using his image, name and likeness without compensation. CLC and EA Sports have settled out of the lawsuit, leaving the NCAA to fight on its own. The trial could have major implications for student-athletes, who by NCAA rules, cannot receive any kind of compensation while in school in order to protect their amateur status.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken will rule on the motions in addition to a request from the O'Bannon plaintiffs for documents pertaining to NCAA rule change discussions. The NCAA is holding its convention this week and among the topics is a possible rule change that could allow student-athletes a stipend to intended to allow players buy home game tickets for their family.
The NCAA called the request "a fishing expedition, most likely motivated by a desire to obtain documents for use in future litigation against the NCAA."
Due to advertisements, lucrative television contracts and reference to a product, the O'Bannon plaintiffs argued TV broadcasts are commercial speech. In other words, student-athletes who appear on national television playing their sport help the NCAA make money and do not receive anything in return.
"The NCAA has avoided this inquiry and, instead, makes arguments based on cases that are either inappropriate or apply a different legal standard from that used in this Circuit and followed by this Court," the plaintiffs wrote.
But the NCAA's chief legal officer, Donald Remy, said in a statement that the plaintiffs did not prove TV broadcasts are commercial.
"Plaintiffs, unsurprisingly, have failed to do so," Remy said, according to AL.com. "Their filing tonight fails to rebut the NCAA's conclusive showing that televised sporting events are matters of intense public interest, and that no one - athletes, coaches, referees, cheerleaders, band members, or fans in the stands - can demand that they be paid when the camera catches their face in the broadcast."
Still, the plaintiffs argued that Major League Baseball's revenue has flourished since the introduction of free agency in 1976 and the resulting massive player contracts. They also cited the public's intense interest in major college sports that even rivals interest in professional sports.
"If such fans were disgusted by the commercialism of 'amateur' sports, they would logically have ceased watching them long ago in the face of coaches being paid millions of dollars, the rampant commercialization of game telecasts, the repeat scandals of (student-athletes) being paid under the table by colleges and universities, and the television contracts that match what is done with professional sports leagues," the plaintiffs wrote.