Former college basketball standout Ed O’Bannon and his lawyers seek to expand his lawsuit challenging the NCAA’s ban on compensating athletes into a class action.
The lawsuit demands that the NCAA find a way to cut players in on the billions of dollars earned by college sports from live broadcasts, memorabilia sales, video games and in other areas.
U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken didn’t rule on either the merits of O’Bannon’s case or his demands to turn the case into a class action. Instead, she ordered O’Bannon’s lawyers to revise the complaint to include current players. Lawyer Michael Hausfeld said he will file a new lawsuit that includes current players, but will seek to keep their names confidential. He said the current players are afraid of retaliation.
NCAA lawyer Greg Curtner argued against certifying the lawsuit as a class action, contending that the claims of thousands of collegiate athletes are too different to be treated the same. For instance, certain athletes bring in more revenue than others and have different legal claims at stake.
The NCAA also contends that many of the athletes receive scholarships in exchange for playing sports and to pay student athletes would ruin amateur athletics. To pay athletes more than that would ruin collegiate sports, the NCAA argues.
The debate over compensating college players is almost as old as the NCAA, founded in 1906. Amateurs have been expected to compete for free and the love of sport — or at least the cost of a scholarship and the pursuit of an education. The NCAA is steadfast in its position that student-athletes are prohibited from receiving payment for participating in sports. It also says it has done nothing wrong in marketing itself for the benefit of its member schools and will continue to vigorously contest the lawsuits.
The NCAA’s revenues have skyrocketed in recent years — it recently signed a $10.8 billion, 14-year television deal for basketball — and so have the demands of athletes to share in the money.
O’Bannon first became aware that others were profiting from his image in 1995, when he visited a friend’s house and was shown an avatar resembling O’Bannon playing for the 1995 Bruins in the game. Two years later, he filed a lawsuit that focused attention from lawmakers, college administrators and others on just how much money the NCAA and its member schools earn each year.