A California judge has ruled that college athletes will be allowed to sue the NCAA for the right to collect television revenue gained from their games, potentially changing the definition of amateurism in American sports.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken, of Oakland, Calif., on Friday decided athletes could bring a class action lawsuit against the NCAA, specifically challenging NCAA rules forbidding athletes from profiting from their own names and images. Athletes will not be permitted to sue for past damages, however.
The public face of this case has been former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, who sued the NCAA for using his likeness in video games without compensation or his consent. About 20 former NCAA athletes joined him, arguing the NCAA and video game maker Electronic Arts, Inc., had violated federal antitrust law. The goal is to create a system under which video game and other such revenues would go into a big pot. Players would be paid their share after their NCAA eligibility was out.
The NCAA argued against it, saying it fundamentally would change college sports as they are known and loved.
"The NCAA has long decried this litigation as threatening college sports as we know it, when in fact the relief sought here is narrow," the athletes’ attorney, Sathya Gosselin, told Reuters.
On that front, this isn’t a victory for the athletes just yet. They’ll still have to file and litigate the lawsuit, but it pushes NCAA athletes further down the road to being (legally) paid than they have ever been.