O'Bannon ruling could haunt NCAA


A federal judge in Oakland ruled on Friday in the Ed O'Bannon litigation that the NCAA must eliminate its rules against payments to college athletes for commercial use of their names, images and likenesses. The ruling and the judge's 99-page opinion raise significant legal questions about the NCAA's governance of college sports and paying college athletes for their performances. Here are some of the questions and their answers:

Q: What is the impact of the O'Bannon ruling on the NCAA?

A: The NCAA and its lawyers claimed that the NCAA was not a monopoly, that it restrictions on payments to college athletes were reasonable and that its rules were based on the organization's core principle of amateurism. On these three claims, the NCAA went 0-for-3. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken rejected the NCAA's assertion that its restraints on payments to college athletes were justified as part of a commitment to amateurism. The ruling is not just a loss in one of many cases. It is a significant ruling that could haunt the NCAA in other litigation. Lawyers for other players challenging other NCAA rules will argue that Wilken's rulings apply to all situations. In what has become known as the " Kessler case," for example, attorney Jeffrey Kessler and his player-clients will assert that the big antitrust issues have now been decided. It is an argument that is likely to be successful.

Q: Is the ruling a triumph for the players?

A: It is a triumph in the sense that players will now for the first time be able to collect money for what they do. But it is far from the triumph the players and their lawyers envisioned when they began this quest five years ago. The payment authorized by Judge Wilken in the formal injunction is capped at $5,000 per athlete per year of competition. Her ruling says the NCAA is restrained from prohibiting an athlete from getting deferred compension of $5,000 or less (currently, an athlete gets nothing). In a typical NCAA career of five years, a player could collect only $25,000. In their attempt to gain a share of TV revenue for live broadcasts of their games, the players were not thinking of thousands of dollars, they were thinking of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Instead of allowing the players to use their leverage to collect a large portion of huge television contracts,

Q: Will there be an appeal of this ruling?

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