A district court judge said yesterday that Ed O'Bannon, who sells Toyotas in Nevada when he's not revolutionizing amateur athletics, can press on with his class-action licensing suit against the NCAA. Let's just pause and marvel at this anew:
The César Chávez of amateur athletes is the guy offering you low APR financing on that late-model Camry. Amazing.
The case concerns the NCAA's use of former players' likenesses in commercials, video games, merchandise, etc., a $4 billion market of which those players see not a cent. (The NCAA is staunchly opposed to the commercialism of amateur athletics, and it will tell you as much in its many television commercials.) You can read more about the suit here. The upshot of the judge's ruling is that the NCAA will now have to crack open its books and for the first time explain, in the words of one of O'Bannon's attorneys, "how student-athletes' current and future rights in their images are divided up and sold." Dan Wetzel lays out what's at stake:
The case could lead to former student-athletes getting a cut of the multi-billion dollar college sports revenue pool and dramatically impact the way college athletics operates.
Consider a famous play such as Christian Laettner's buzzer-beating 3-pointer that lifted Duke past Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA tournament. The footage has been sold by the NCAA to be used in commercial advertisements for nearly two decades. In most cases, neither Laettner, nor any other player in the footage, has been paid. The O'Bannon lawsuit could cause the NCAA to retroactively compensate everyone in the highlight (the UK players guarding Laettner, the bench players, celebrating Duke teammates, etc.) for a cut of the revenue advertisements using that footage generated.
This is a heavy blow to the NCAA, which already is getting shoved around Capitol Hill over its tax-exempt status and which now faces the twin prospects of handing over fat piles of cash to Thomas Hill every time you see him cry on TV and of sharing revenue with all future players, too. Come on down to Crazy Ed O'Bannon's! This is a deal you can't miss out on!