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O'Bannon v. NCAA: 5 Legal Questions and Answers

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on June 09, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A federal court in Oakland, California, has begun hearing the much-discussed lawsuit pitting college athletes, led by former UCLA basketball standout Ed O'Bannon, against the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

What is this federal antitrust lawsuit all about, and what might it mean for the future of big-time college athletics?

Here are the answers to five key questions about O'Bannon v. NCAA:

  1. Who is Ed O'Bannon? Ed O' Bannon was a star player for UCLA's 1995 National Champion basketball team. He was subsequently drafted by the New Jersey Nets, but only lasted two seasons before playing in Europe for several years. At the time the lawsuit was filed, O'Bannon was working at a car dealership in Las Vegas.
  2. Why is he suing? O' Bannon filed his original suit after recognizing himself in a video game licensed by the NCAA for which he was not being compensated. O'Bannon and the other players who have joined him in the class-action lawsuit claim the NCAA is restraining trade in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act by monopolizing players' ability to license their own image for use in broadcasts, merchandise, and other ancillary sources of revenue for college sports programs
  3. What happens if he wins? If O'Bannon and the players win, the NCAA will likely be enjoined from preventing players from seeking compensation for use of their image. That would mean that star players would be able to individually negotiate their own licenses.
  4. What happens if he loses? If the players lose, the NCAA would theoretically be able to continue to control the ability of players to license their own likeness.
  5. What happened with the video game company? EA Sports, the video game company that was originally part of O'Bannon's lawsuit, has agreed to a proposed $20 million settlement to certain college athletes, it was announced in court this morning, according to USA Today. That's separate from a proposed $40 million EA Sports settlement that will compensate as many as 100,000 players whose virtual images were used in video games.

Whatever the verdict in O'Bannon's federal lawsuit in Oakland, the case will likely be appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and possibly even to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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