The NCAA is under siege these days by the very people it regulates. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) governs athletes from 1200+ colleges, universities and other college-level educational organizations.
Traditionally, the NCAA: allows college athletes to receive scholarships including the costs of tuition, room, board, books and/or other required fees in exchange for their participation in college athletics; the athletes allow the use of their names, images and likenesses during and after their collegiate careers through either specific releases or tacit understanding; and the NCAA limits the amounts athletes can receive to make college sports “distinct, competitively balanced and integrated with education.” Meanwhile, Capital-B Billions of dollars are made in licensing fees and TV revenues from commercially using the athletes’ names, images and likeness, both during and after their collegiate careers.
The NCAA’s current problem is that the athletes want a piece of the pie. The NCAA is now defending an antitrust class action suit by former college athletes. Spearheaded by Ed O’Bannon, a star on UCLA’s 1995 national championship basketball team, the suit was brought in behalf of all the NCAA’s Division I football and men’s basketball players, arguing that after college graduation, former college athletes should be entitled to financial compensation for the commercial use of his/her name, likeness and/or image. The former athletes allege, among other arguments, that the “integration with education” part of the college athletic equation is untrue; in fact, they assert, they were athletes pretending to be students and gravitating toward majors that would least interfere with their sports participation.
Another significant development occurred on the first day of the O’Bannon trial. The proposed $20 million settlement of a case brought by former college quarterback, Sam Keller, against the NCAA for use of college athletes’ likenesses and names in video games was announced. An elated Keller stated that this settlement will be “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.” O’Bannon v. NCAA may be the next.
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