O’Bannon’s NCAA Antitrust Suit Kept Alive

Ed O'Bannon's Sports Illustrated Cover 1995

In a significant defeat for the NCAA, a federal judge kept alive the antitrust class action by former All American basketball star Ed O’Bannon in his effort to win compensation for NCAA licensing of college players’ names and likeness after their playing days.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken Tuesday rejected the NCAA claim that O’Bannon’s effort to win class certification should be blocked because of new legal theories O’Bannon presented in the case.

Wilken said the NCAA position would be better treated as a motion to deny class certification and she set June 20, 2013 to hearing arguments on class status.

If O’Bannon’s side had lost it could have spelled the end of the lawsuit.

O’Bannon, who was the most valuable player in UCLA’s 1995 championship victory over Arkansas, discovered his game films and video were still being sold by the NCAA long after his playing days. He argues that the NCAA requirement that all student-athletes sign waivers of rights to their images and names to be eligible to play is a perpetual contract.

He argues the NCAA has engaged in a price-fixing conspiracy to thwart the ability of former athletes to license use of their images.

The NCAA has countered that compensating athletes would impair amateurism.

And there are big bucks in the dispute. The NCAA’s latest 14-year contract for TV and broadcast rights for basketball’s March Madness tournament is $10.8 billion with CBS and Turner Broadcasting.

Wilken set a tentative trial date of June 9, 2014, should the case be certified as a class action.

Case: O’Bannon v. NCAA, No. C09-1967CW



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