The NCAA is the Last Defendant Left in the O’Bannon Suit


 by: Kevin Lorello, 2L Contributor

The NCAA is determined to preserve amateurism in college athletics, and is now the lone defendant in the fight to do so.

Last Thursday, video game publisher Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) and licensing company Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) agreed to pay a reported $40 million to settle the lawsuit brought by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon for the unauthorized use of players’ images and likenesses. This settlement – which still must be approved by U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken – could signify that college athletes are one step away from being able to share in the revenue generated by the NCAA.

If approved, this settlement would allow former, and current college athletes, to be compensated, for the first time ever, for the use of their likenesses in video games and other merchandise.

The NCAA, however, remains uncompromising in its belief that college athletes should not be able to profit beyond the benefits provided by athletic scholarships, and the NCAA appears to be gearing up for a legal battle that could take years to resolve. The NCAA has already bolstered their defense team by hiring one firm to handle the trial, and another firm for the purpose of appeals. Such strategy could be taken as a sign that the NCAA is not particularly confident in its position heading forward, or it could reflect the fact that the NCAA has a tremendous amount of revenue at its disposal. In 2011-12 (the most recent year available) the NCAA generated over $871 million in revenue. Either way, the NCAA is firmly committed to maintaining the status quo in college athletics. According to its chief legal officer, Donald Remy, the NCAA is “prepared to take this all the way to the Supreme Court” if necessary.

Although it is unlikely that this case reaches the Supreme Court, the NCAA has a great deal at stake as this legal battle moves forward. If the NCAA ultimately decides to settle, or loses at trial, the amateur system, which has served as the foundation of college athletics for over 100 years, will be all but extinguished. Should the NCAA win, however, the debate as to whether the system is broken and outdated will continue. Regardless of how this plays out, it is safe to say that the NCAA is finally at the crossroads it has long been avoiding.






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