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21 Jul

Former Athletes Sue NCAA

I read an article on Yahoo! Sports today that was really eye-opening. (There is a link at the end of this post.) It started out talking about a former UCLA basketball player named Ed O’Bannon. He played in 1995, played for a few years in the NBA, then retired. But EA Sports has made a video game featuring the 1995 UCLA Bruins team. As a result, the neighbor kids knew him…

They knew O’Bannon – his tendencies, his number 31, even the mechanics of his lefty jump shot – from playing a video game that featured classic college teams.

“They literally played me on a video game,” O’Bannon told Yahoo! Sports on Saturday. “You could play the ’95 Bruins. It didn’t have my name, but it had my number, left-handed, it looked like me. It was everything but the name.

“My friend kind of looked at me and said, ‘you know what’s sad about this whole thing? You’re not getting paid for it.’ I was just like, ‘wow, you’re right.’ It just kind of weighed on me.”

Fourteen years after O’Bannon left college, the NCAA, which profited handsomely off him as a student-athlete, was still profiting handsomely off him as a former student-athlete. They’d made a deal with EA Sports to feature that UCLA club. There were also O’Bannon jerseys, commemorative DVDs and full game footage still for sale.

From reading the rest of the article it seems that the NCAA has regularly been able to defend its actions in featuring current athletes because it “protects their amateur status” but that argument fails when dealing with graduates. It sounds like a slam-dunk (pun) case to me.

It has attracted some really high-profile lawyers too, so guess who will get all the money.

Making NCAA pay?, Dan Wetzle column

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