Stupid NCAA Rule Of The Day, No. 3

12.5.1.8 Promotion of NCAA and Conference Championships. The NCAA [or a third party acting on behalf of the NCAA (e.g., host institution, conference, local organizing committee)] may use the name or picture of a student-athlete to generally promote NCAA championships. A student-athlete’s name or picture may appear in a poster that promotes a conference championship, provided the poster is produced by a member that hosts a portion of the championship or by the conference. (Adopted: 1/11/89, Revised: 8/7/03)

 Ed O’Bannon was a rangy swingman who starred on the 1995 National Champion UCLA team.  He was named Final Four Most Outstanding Player that year and would go on to have short NBA career and retiring in 2004 after bouncing around South America and Europe.  However, his most important contribution to sports may come in a court of law.  O’Bannon is the named plaintiff in a class action suit against the NCAA and EA Sports.

O’Bannon and the Former College Athletes Association (FCAA) are suing on the basis that the NCAA and EA Sports owe them part of the revenue gained from video games sold using the likeness and images of the athletes without their permission.  The NCAA has long held that they are able to use the likeness and images of current athletes.  However, the FCAA claims the NCAA should not be allowed to use the video game images and likenesses of former players, even without using their actual names, without the athlete’s permission.

Yesterday, Judge Claudia Wilken ruled that a hearing must be held to determine whether current NCAA athletes can be included in the suit.  Judge Wilken dismissed the NCAA’s motion to dismiss the addition of the current athletes on procedural grounds and set a June 20th hearing for the argument to be decided on its merits.  Allowing those athletes to be a part of the suit would increase the monetary damages from hundreds of millions to potentially billions.

This is all just the preliminary skirmishing before the real battle of the trial begins.  If the current athletes are allowed to participate in this case and the athletes win, this could force the NCAA to change its policies towards paying athletes and it will certainly change the way they deal with its corporate media partners.  The NCAA will have to either include the player’s cut in all negotiations going forward or ESPN, CBS, EA Sports, etc. will have to negotiate with the players on a separate basis.  Of course the NCAA has a lot of money and a lot of lawyers and could still figure out a way to screw athletes in the future by rewording some of its bylaws.

The one thing we do know is that this case is moving towards being heard in a court of law.  Regardless of the outcome this will not end well for the NCAA because even if they win, they will be arguing publicly their interpretations of amateurism and their reasoning for control of the images, likeness, and names of human beings without those human beings having any say in the matter.  That is not going to be a good look.

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