O'Bannon v. NCAA
|O'Bannon v. NCAA|
|Court||United States District Court for the Northern District of California|
|Full case name||EDWARD O’BANNON, et al. v. NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION; ELECTRONIC ARTS INC.; and COLLEGIATE LICENSING COMPANY,|
|Decided||August 08, 2014|
|Judge(s) sitting||Claudia Wilken|
O'Bannon v. NCAA is an antitrust class action lawsuit filed against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The lawsuit, which former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon filed on behalf of the NCAA's Division I football and men's basketball players, challenges the organization's use of the images of its former student athletes for commercial purposes. The suit argues that upon graduation, a former student athlete should become entitled to financial compensation for NCAA's commercial uses of their image. The NCAA maintains that paying its athletes would be a violation of its concept of amateurism in sports. At stake are "billions of dollars in television revenues and licensing fees."
On August 8, 2014, District Judge Claudia Wilken found for O'Bannon, holding that the NCAA's rules and bylaws operate as an unreasonable restraint of trade, in violation of antitrust law. The Court said it would separately enter an injunction regarding the specific violations found. In September, 2015, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, in part, and reversed, in part, the District Court's ruling. March 2016, O'Bannon's lawyers appealed the case to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme Court denied certiorari on October 3, 2016.
In July 2009, Ed O'Bannon, a former basketball player for UCLA who was a starter on the their 1995 national championship team and the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player that year, filed a lawsuit against the NCAA and the Collegiate Licensing Company, alleging violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act and of actions that deprived him of his right of publicity. He agreed to be the lead plaintiff after seeing his likeness from the 1995 championship team used in the EA Sports title NCAA Basketball 09 without his permission. The game featured an unnamed UCLA player who played O'Bannon's power forward position, while also matching his height, weight, bald head, skin tone, No. 31 jersey, and left-handed shot. In January 2011, Oscar Robertson joined O'Bannon in the class action suit. Bill Russell is also among the 20 former college athletes who are plaintiffs.
Electronic Arts and the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC), both original co-defendants with the NCAA, departed from the case and finalized a $40 million settlement that could net as much as $4,000 to as many as 100,000 current and former athletes who had appeared in EA Sports' NCAA Basketball and NCAA Football series of video games since 2003.
Trial and verdict
On August 8, 2014, Wilken ruled that the NCAA's long-held practice of barring payments to athletes violated antitrust laws. She ordered that schools should be allowed to offer full cost-of-attendance scholarships to athletes, covering cost-of-living expenses that were not currently part of NCAA scholarships. Wilken also ruled that college be permitted to place as much as $5,000 into a trust for each athlete per year of eligibility.
The NCAA subsequently appealed the ruling, arguing that Wilken did not properly consider NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma. In that case, the NCAA was denied control of college football television rights.  The Supreme Court denied the NCAA's appeal.  The NCAA was also ordered to pay the plaintiffs $42.2 million in fees and costs. 
As a result of O'Bannon, a number of other class-action lawsuits filed by student athletes against the NCAA and colleges followed, challenging other restrictions on educational funds as being anti-competitive. These were combined into a single suit also heard by Judge Wilkens, who ruled against the NCAA in March 2019 and required the NCAA to allow students to obtain other non-cash scholarships, internships and other support beyond the full cost-of-attendeance for academic purposes. The Ninth Circuit upheld the ruling on appeal, and the Supreme Court has certified the case to hear sometime in 2021 as National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston. 
EA Sports, which had published the NCAA-sports based games, left that market; NCAA Basketball 10 (published in 2009) was the final game in that series, while the NCAA terminated its license with EA during the events of O'Bannon after the release of NCAA Football 14 (published in 2013) over licensing rates. EA Sports subsequently announced a new series that would be called EA Sports College Football they expect to launch in 2023 which will not use any player likenesses to respect the ruling of O'Bannon, bypassing the NCAA, but will still license college logos, uniforms, and stadiums through the Collegiate Licensing Company.
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