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O'Bannon Beats The NCAA

A federal judge in Oakland ruled mostly for the plaintiffs and against the NCAA in the Ed O'Bannon suit. O'Bannon, the heart and soul of the 1995 Bruin championship team was the lead plaintiff in the class action suit. Going forward, college athletes cannot be prohibited from sharing in revenue streams generated by the use of their name, image and likeness.

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Ed O'Bannon with his UCLA memorabilia
Ed O'Bannon with his UCLA memorabilia

Years after his playing days at UCLA were over, Ed O'Bannon saw an NCAA Basketball videogame from EA Sports which included a player clearly modeled on his game and image. O'Bannon reasonably assumed that he should be able to benefit from his own image. It was one thing to not be paid to compete. It was another thing to have others profit from his image years after graduation.

It is hard to imagine that any video game enthusiast would pick next year's UCLA point guard to control the flow of a game (that only happens in real life with TIARA), but Ed O'Bannon is a classic player, who would be a natural for anybody trying to win a championship (as happened in real life with Jim Harrick). So O'Bannon sued to overturn the state of affairs.

The trial was held in Oakland, California. There was a parade of witnesses, including the NCAA president and the Stanford athletic director. The defense probably would have liked to have Doughnut on the stand, because with his "pattern of image and substance" (per his bio), he could probably stress the former and avoid the latter, as he has done throughout his tenure in Morgan Center. But that didn't happen.

US District Court judge Claudia Wilken released her ruling yesterday. The full text of her ruling is at the bottom of this article. USA Today posted an article on Friday about the ruling. It would be really helpful if the legal eagles in our community could decipher this for the rest of us. I personally get my legal knowledge from Perry Mason re-runs, so some expertise would be most welcome.

The plaintiffs won and the NCAA, along with its member schools, will not be able to hide behind current by-laws which prohibit sharing revenue streams which come from the use of names, images and likenesses with the student-athletes. The plaintiffs did score less than a total victory, however, as the judge ruled against their request to be able to endorse products.

UCLA has had numerous pivotal athletes on the field/court and off, whose influence extended beyond their time on campus -- Jackie Robinson, Arthur Ashe, and many others. Perhaps we will be able to look back in similar fashion at the time when Ed O'Bannon took on the NCAA and won. Time will tell as the ripples from this case and Judge Wilken's ruling spread in the future.