NCAA Lawsuit Could Change College Sports

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College athletes and ADs around the country are keeping a close eye on the latest developments in O’Bannon v. NCAA as the case proceeds to trial this summer. At the crux of the suit is whether or not colleges should have to compensate athletes for the use of their likenesses on DVDs, photos, video games, or rebroadcasts of events. The outcome of the trial could have a significant impact on college sports.


College athletes like Ed O’Bannon, former championship basketball player for the UCLA Bruins, are seeking a share of the billions of dollars the colleges are paid as a result of the performance of the players. The NCAA is arguing that players are already compensated in the form of scholarships.


On April 27, 2014, following the collapse of settlement negotiations between the NCAA and the players, the NCAA filed a motion asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to throw out the class action suit or dismiss the portion involving video games separated out from the suit.   There is no word yet on how Judge Claudia Wilken of the District Court for the Northern District of California will rule.  She has found in favor of the NCAA by failing to certify some members of the class in the initial suit but has also criticized the organization for failing to explain, “why it could not adopt more stringent revenue-sharing rules.”


O’Bannon v. NCAA was filed in 2009 and is scheduled to go to trial in June 2014. The court has overruled many motions by the NCAA to get the case dismissed, although it did rule against class-action status for the players. However, they can sue the NCAA as individuals over past and current profits brought in through the use of their likenesses.


Even if it is assumed that there is at least an implied contract that, in return for a scholarship, the athlete has granted permission the use their name and likeness, the athletes can argue that they are receiving scholarships for playing in the games but not for the use of their names and images in the many other ways colleges are using them for huge profits.  A trial date is set for June 9, 2014.


With more than 25 years of experience representing individuals and businesses in the areas of sports law and business litigation, James J. “Jim” Thomas II is recognized as an expert across Georgia.  If you or your business needs assistance in sports law, business ventures, handling complex business litigation, or in the analysis, evaluation, and resolution of existing and potential litigation in sports law cases, give Jim a call at 404-869-5248 or email him today to set up a consultation.  To learn more about Jim, please visit

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