Former players dispute NCAA's approach to image use
At any given time, the NCAA is mired in a dozen or so lawsuits, so the inside of a courtroom is not an unfamiliar place. But the O’Bannon case, named after former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, has the potential to change the economic landscape in college athletics unlike any case before it.
The plaintiffs, who include Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson, also allege that athletes are required to sign forms while they’re students that relinquish in perpetuity all rights pertaining to the use of their names, images and likenesses.
For example, North Carolina sells a slew of No. 23 basketball
|Ed O’Bannon is shown in 1995 during his playing days at UCLA.
If the O’Bannon case ends in favor of the plaintiffs, the NCAA and its member schools could theoretically be forced to pay athletes and former athletes royalties on merchandise and any other use of their likeness, and they could potentially share in the billions coming in from TV contracts.
Jay Fee, an attorney and sports agent, said the O’Bannon discussion has been a constant theme in the sports law class he teaches at Suffolk University in Boston.
“We touch on it a lot,” Fee said. “Especially with the younger generation, there seems to be more willingness to challenge the underpinnings of amateurism and the basic principles of equity. The constant refrain is: ‘Why can’t you pay college athletes?’ The use of a plaintiff’s name or likeness without permission is a fundamental claim.
“What’s the difference here?”