We’re inside the final two minutes on the clock for the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) in-house legal team, and the match’s intensity has reached another level. Just as one lawsuit against the governing body of major collegiate sports is seeing its day in court, another lawsuit has been settled without trial.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California heard testimony in a case commonly referred to as the “O’Bannon case” on June 9. Former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon filed an antitrust suit against the NCAA, claiming that the organization unfairly blocks student-athletes from making money off of their likenesses.
O’Bannon and Stanford sports economist Roger Noll testified on the first day, with both parties stating that college athletes should receive a share of revenue generated from television contracts and merchandise. O’Bannon said that student-athletes are essentially professionals, claiming, “I was an athlete masquerading as a student ... I was there strictly to play basketball.” Meanwhile, Knoll called the NCAA “a cartel that creates a price-fixing scheme among its members.”
In response, the NCAA’s lead lawyer, Glenn Pomerantz, asked O’Bannon to list the advantages he received from his playing days at UCLA, which Sports Illustrated lists as a free education, TV exposure, mentoring, training assistance and the opportunity to play against top competition. Pomerantz also claimed that O’Bannon’s current views differ from a 2011 deposition he gave on the same subject.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken is overseeing the case, which will continue on July 10 with more testimony from Roger Noll.
Meanwhile, as the proceedings were beginning, the NCAA announced a settlement in a similar case, brought by former Arizona State and Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller. Keller had sued the NCAA in connection with unauthorized use of his likeness in college sports video games. According to lawyers from both sides, the proposed deal is for $20 million, which will be added to a $40 million settlement already reached with video game manufacturer Electronic Arts and Collegiate Licensing Co.
“It's a neat feeling,” Keller told USA Today following the announcement. “It's a sense of accomplishment, this becoming the first time the NCAA is paying out for a product on the field. This is going to be the first of many dominoes to fall. It's an exciting time. The whole goal in (these lawsuits) is to change the landscape — to do what's fair and right. And I wish (the O'Bannon plaintiffs) the best of luck.”
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