Ed O’Bannon

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Appeals court rules NCAA in violation of antitrust laws

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SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court has upheld a ruling against the NCAA saying its use of college athletes’ names, images and likenesses violated antitrust laws but struck down a plan allowing schools to pay athletes up to $5,000.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Wednesday that the NCAA couldn’t stop schools from providing full scholarships to student athletes but vacated the proposal for deferred cash payments.

The NCAA appealed U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken’s 2014 decision, which came in a lawsuit filed by UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon and 19 others.

A statement from NCAA President Mark Emmert says the organization agrees with the court that the injunction “allowing students to be paid cash compensation of up to $5,000 per year was erroneous.”

NCAA announces it will appeal Ed O’Bannon ruling

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In a move that should surprise nobody, the NCAA announced on Sunday morning that it will appeal the ruling that it had violated antitrust laws. On Friday, in a 99-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken determined that the NCAA violated antitrust laws by prohibiting student-athletes from being compensating for the use of their name, image or likeness.

Here is a portion of the statement from Donald Remy, the NCAA chief legal officer.

We remain confident that the NCAA has not violated the antitrust laws and intend to appeal. We will also be seeking clarity from the District Court on some details of its ruling.

It should be noted that the Court supported several of the NCAA’s positions, and we share a commitment to better support student-athletes. For more than three years, we’ve been working to improve the college experience for the more than 460,000 student-athletes across all three divisions. On Thursday, the Division I Board of Directors passed a new governance model allowing schools to better support student-athletes, including covering the full cost of attendance, one of the central components of the injunction. The Court also agreed that the integration of academics and athletics is important and supported by NCAA rules.

The lawsuit was led by former UCLA forward Ed O’Bannon.

Judge rules NCAA violated antitrust law in Ed O’Bannon case

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It’s been a tough week for the NCAA as a federal judge ruled on Friday that the NCAA’s rules prohibiting student-athletes from being paid for the use of their name, image or likeness violates antitrust law. The ruling, handed down from U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken, comes from the five-year lawsuit involving former UCLA star basketball player Ed O’Bannon.

Earlier in the week, the NCAA Board allowed autonomy to take place within the Power 5 conferences.

How the change in Division I power structure changes college hoops

The ruling from Wilken allows for licensing revenue to be shared in the form of a trust fund that will be established for student-athletes to share.

In her 99-page opinion, Wilken issued an injuction “that will enjoin the NCAA from enforcing any rules or bylaws that would prohibit its member schools and conferences from offering their FBS football or Division I basketball recruits a limited share of the revenues generated from the use of their names, images, and likenesses in addition to a full grant-in-aid.”

Wilken said the injunction will not take effect until the start of the next football and basketball recruiting cycles. The injunction will also not be stayed pending any appeal of her order.

The injunction will not prevent the NCAA from setting rules capping the amount of money that can be paid to student-athletes while they’re enrolled in school, but the NCAA is not allowed to set that cap below the cost of attendance.

The injunction will also prohibit the NCAA from “enforcing any rules to prevent its member schools and conferences from offering to deposit a limited share of licensing revenue in trust for their FBS football and Division I basketball recruits, payable when they leave school or their eligibility expires,” Wilken wrote.

With the ruling in the O’Bannon case, Wilken also said that the NCAA can continue to enforce all of its other existing rules.

“Nothing in this injunction will preclude the NCAA from continuing to enforce all of its other existing rules which are designed to achieve legitimate pro competitive goals,” Wilken wrote.

The NCAA responded to the ruling with a statement from NCAA Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy:

“We disagree with the Court’s decision that NCAA rules violate antitrust laws. We note that the Court’s decision sets limits on compensation, but are reviewing the full decision and will provide further comment later. As evidenced by yesterday’s Board of Directors action, the NCAA is committed to fully supporting student-athletes.”

You can read Wilken’s full 99-page ruling here, as published by USA Today.

Assigned Reading: Michael Hausfeld, the man taking on the NCAA

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On Thursday, Steve Fainaru and Tom Farrey of ESPN co-wrote a lengthy piece about the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit against the NCAA. But the story didn’t focus on the former collegiate star. It centered around the lead attorney, Michael Hausfeld. Despite knowing next to nothing about sports, it hasn’t stopped him from challenging the NCAA’s model.

Hausfeld wasn’t kidding. He had no clue who Manziel and Clowney were. Just as he had no clue who O’Bannon — the Final Four Most Outstanding Player in UCLA’s 1995 title run — was before O’Bannon agreed to place his name on the lawsuit five years ago. No clue who Oscar Robertson was before he was added as co-plaintiff. No clue about anything, really, related to sports, at least as it’s played between the lines.

But Hausfeld does have one big idea — that the people who run our games ought to play by the rules that govern society and industry — and that has made him one of the most powerful people in sports. He has gone after the NCAA for allegedly operating as an illegal cartel. He has pursued the NFL and pushed the league to address the treatment of players in the areas of concussions and licensing rights. He’s even brought heat on the National Federation of State High School Associations in an attempt to hold some entity accountable for the fact that prep football players are nearly twice as likely as college players to suffer a brain injury.

The detailed story explains how Hausfeld and O’Bannon came in contact. It was through Sonny Vaccaro.

The trial officially began on June 9.

Former UConn star Richard Hamilton would have returned for senior season had he been paid by NCAA

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With the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit currently playing out in an Oakland, Calif. courtroom, one of the questions being debated is whether or not student-athletes should be paid. While there is the scholarship that covers tuition, room and board, many who argue that there should be more money to go around see the escalating coaching salaries and lucrative television deals as reasons why those who play the sports should receive more.

One person who’s in favor of athletes being paid is former UConn guard Richard Hamilton, who helped lead the program to its first national title in 1999 before playing more than a decade in the NBA. During a trip up to Syracuse for the Sportscaster U program run by Syracuse play-by-play announcer Matt Park, which is open to current and former professional athletes, Hamilton discussed his thoughts on the subject with Chris Carlson of the Syracuse Post-Standard.

Also of note was Hamilton stating that he may have returned to UConn for his senior season if he and other athletes were paid by the NCAA.

“I would have stayed in school,” Hamilton said. “I think so, I think so. For me it was about timing but also financial situation. It was a chance to take care of the people that took care of you your entire life. Sometimes when you’re in college, you can’t do the stuff you want to do for financial reasons. If you have people helping you out or the NCAA helping you out, I think guys would think twice about going to the NBA. (If you’re getting paid) a lot of needs, not wants, but their needs, are taken care of.”

The question in situations like this is how much would athletes be paid, and who would receive the payments. Would there be a salary, or would the goal be to meet the full cost of attendance for athletes? In his testimony during the O’Bannon lawsuit former Alabama wide receiver Tyrone Prothro, whose career came to an end due to a fractured leg, stated that he had to take out student loans that he’s still paying off to this day. (It should be noted that Prothro’s testimony focused on the fact that he did not control the rights to his own image and the uses of it by the school and the NCAA.)

For those not in favor of giving athletes more, especially if financing the education of their own college-aged children, that probably won’t be seen as a big deal. But if that’s the case, why refer to the scholarship as a “full” scholarship? Whether or not changes are made to the current model will depend on a number of factors, with the “Power Five’s” quest for autonomy and the O’Bannon lawsuit being the biggest factors.

But this will be one of the issues the powers that be within collegiate athletics will need to address in the near future.

NCAA settles for $20 million in Keller v. NCAA lawsuit

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The Ed O’Bannon lawsuit isn’t the only news involving college athletes and legal matters regarding the use of their likenesses to break on Monday.

The NCAA and the attorneys representing former student-athletes in a lawsuit claiming that the NCAA and EA Sports illegally used the athletes’ likenesses in video games announced that a settlement has been reached. The NCAA will pay the plaintiffs $20 million, which will be added to the $40 million that EA Sports agreed to pay to the plaintiffs last week.

“This is the first time in the history of the NCAA that the organization is paying student-athletes for rights related to their play on the field, compensating them for their contribution to the profit-making nature of college sports,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and lead attorney in the Keller v. NCAA, et al. litigation. “We’ve long held through our various cases against the NCAA that the student-athlete is treated poorly in everything from scholarships to safety. This settlement is a step toward equity and fairness for them.”

“With the games no longer in production and the plaintiffs settling their claims with EA and the Collegiate Licensing Company, the NCAA viewed a settlement now as an appropriate opportunity to provide complete closure to the video game plaintiffs,” said NCAA Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy in a statement.

U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken, who is presiding over the O’Bannon v. NCAA litigation, must must grant preliminary approval of the settlement.

The NCAA also announced that they have agreed to a preliminary settlement to drop lawsuits against EA and Collegiate Licensing Company.

Remy, however, did add that this settlement does not change their opinion that the way that their business model — amateurism — is legal, which is what is essentially being tried in the O’Bannon case.

“The collegiate model of sports provides hundreds of thousands of student-athletes with unmatched opportunities for education, growth, mentoring, and future success,” Remy said.