The National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) was recently handed a devastating blow to their long standing amateurism policy by Judge Claudia Wilken of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in the class action lawsuit of O’Bannon et al. v. NCAA et al. Judge Wilken ruled that the NCCA’s use of a collegiate athlete’s name, image and/or likeness violates anti-trust laws and, therefore, mandated an injunction against NCAA rules that prohibit student athletes from earning money from their right publicity.
The ruling by Judge Wilken has its limitations. First, the ruling only applies to football players in the NCAA’s top 10 conferences and all Division I men’s basketball players. Second, any money due to an athlete goes into a trust fund for that athlete that can only be accessed after graduation. Finally, to prevent million dollar payouts and to prevent universities from engaging in egregious bidding wars for the top athletic prospects, Judge Wilken’s ruling permits the NCAA to cap the amount of money each player may be paid from any licensing agreement for video games, television broadcasts, merchandise or the like (with a minimum of $5,000 per year per player).
However, the NCAA does not believe that its long-standing amateurism rules violate anti-trust laws or student athlete’s rights of publicity and therefore have appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit. The appeal has been fast tracked for a speedy trial with opening briefs due November 14, 2014 and answering briefs due January 21, 2015 in the hopes of obtaining a resolution before the injunction takes effect at the start of the 2015-2016 season.