By Ken Reed

The long-awaited Ed O’Bannon class-action antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA finally got underway this week. O’Bannon and his fellow plaintiffs are after an injunction that would prohibit the NCAA from limiting the compensation Division I football (bowl subdivision) and men’s basketball players can receive in exchange for their college sports participation.

This isn’t a strict “pay-for-play” case in that O’Bannon isn’t demanding that college football and basketball players be salaried in a traditional sense, and thus, receive pay checks from universities. What’s at issue is the plaintiffs’ claim that without the NCAA’s rules limiting player compensation to basically tuition and room and board, football and basketball players could garner income from the use of their names, images and likenesses in live television broadcasts, rebroadcasts of games, video games and other forms of player marketing.

If O’Bannon wins this case, players would be able to earn money selling their autographs, photographs of themselves, etc. In essence, college athletes could operate more like Olympic athletes. Also, college athletes would likely be free to negotiate licensing agreements involving the use of their names, images and likenesses.

How all this would actually play out if O’Bannon wins is not completely clear.

One thing is clear, however: If Team O’Bannon wins the NCAA will definitely appeal. The NCAA is not about to let the greatest one-sided economic model in sports go without fighting to the bitter end.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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