While the lawsuit against the NCAA led by former UCLA forward Ed O’Bannon has received most of the attention in recent years, with a start date of June 9 just over a month away, that isn’t the only suit the NCAA has to deal with. There’s also the suit being led by former Arizona State and Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller, which was separated from the O’Bannon suit a couple years ago.
With the similar arguments with regards to the use of player likenesses in video games and other advertisements, one would assume that the plaintiffs in the Keller lawsuit would be in favor of the O’Bannon suit moving on as scheduled. However that isn’t the case, with Steve Berkowitz of USA Today writing Saturday that the Keller suit plaintiffs support the NCAA’s request to have the start of the O’Bannon suit delayed.
While both suits focus on player likenesses, the Keller suit deals primarily with the players’ control over the use of their likenesses. According to the story, the Keller plaintiffs support a delay of the O’Bannon lawsuit due to their desire to protect specific claims in their own suit.
Keller’s lawyers do not want to see those claims potentially affected by verdict in the NCAA’s favor in the impending trial. If the NCAA were to gain a complete victory in the trial, including on issues related to video games, Keller’s lawyers likely would be prevented from pursuing their claims related to video games because of a legal principal that prevents relitigation of the same issue.
They said that if Wilken is not inclined to separate the video-game claims and evidence, they want her to delay a trial until the Keller and O’Bannon cases can be tried together which they will be ready to do in about six months. But they added that if Wilken agrees that issues decided in the O’Bannon trial will not have any impact on the issues that can be raised in a trial in the Keller case, then they take no position on when the O’Bannon trial begins.
With Electronic Arts and the Collegiate Licensing Company also supporting a motion to have the start of the O’Bannon lawsuit delayed, one has to wonder if Judge Claudia Wilken will be convinced that a delay is the best route to take. Either way, all sides involved are looking to strengthen their respective cases in the best way possible.
And while these discussions take place, the longer we all wait to see what (if any) impact this all has on the current model of collegiate athletics.