Ed O'Bannon on Northwestern's Unionization Movement: 'People Are Talking, We've Won'

By , UniversityHerald Reporter

Ed O'Bannon thinks the Northwestern football team is doing something important for college sports while also stacking the deck in his favor because he believes he has now won.

O'Bannon is suing the NCAA for using his name, image and likeness without permission or compensation. The former UCLA basketball player said his case is not based on money, but on his belief that the NCAA cannot use student-athletes to bring in massive profits without doing anything to benefit them.

"I feel like I've already won," O'Bannon told Bloomberg News. "It was never about collecting money. It was about bringing awareness, causing conversation. It was about stimulating thoughts to this travesty that's going on at the college level. People are talking. We've won."

O'Bannon knows his and the Northwestern football team's case will take a long time to be resolved, but the fact that an action is being taken is enough. Many of the football players on the team who are trying to unionize college sports will not even be in college if/when the case is settled.

"I love that they're conscious of their surroundings and conscious of the money that's being made," O'Bannon said. "The players, they're in a unique position in that they make a lot of money for a lot of people, including their respective universities, but don't have a voice."

O'Bannon issued his lawsuit five years ago and, until recently, it was also aimed at the Collegiate Licensing Company and the EA video game company. Late in 2013, EA and CLC settled out of the suit for an undisclosed amount, leaving the NCAA to fight the case alone.

EA also ended its college football video game franchise and apparently will not pursue licensing agreements with the NCAA or any colleges or conferences in the future. Also as a result of O'Bannon's filing, the NCAA stopped selling player and team merchandise through its own website.

O'Bannon may feel like Northwestern's movement gives him the win, but a victory in court would drastically change the landscape of an NCAA that is already mulling a major shakeup.

"People seem to think that athletes are these faceless, nameless, voiceless, muscle-bound dolts who don't have brains," O'Bannon said. "The fact that they are organizing themselves and coming together and are standing up for themselves is, in my opinion, a beautiful thing."

CLICK HERE to read Bloomberg News' full report on O'Bannon and the Northwestern Football Team.

CLICK HERE to read ESPN's "Outside the Lines" report on the origins of the team's movement to unionize college sports.

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