What O’Bannon Ruling Means for Student-Athletes

The student-athlete’s future is looking a lot more lucrative. 

The NCAA was handed another major challenge last week when U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken ruled against the organization in the class-action lawsuit brought by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon. The ruling gave the go-ahead for basketball and football player compensation, and according to experts, opened the door to endorsement deals and more.

“We remain confident that the NCAA has not violated the antitrust laws and intend to appeal,” said David Remy, chief legal officer of the NCAA in a statement Sunday. “It should be noted that the Court supported several of the NCAA’s positions, and we share a commitment to better support student-athletes.”  Remy cited the board of directors’ decision on Aug. 7 to allow the Big Five—the five largest conferences in college sports—more autonomy to make decisions about players and recruiting.

In a year marked with high-profile setbacks for the organization—including a March ruling allowing Northwestern University’s football team to unionize—the NCAA Big Five vote and O’Bannon ruling put a harsh spotlight on the often-criticized business of college sports.

“We will definitely see top-tier colleges paying athletes a lot of money to come to their schools [because of this], and I think this will likely add further pressure to let athletes sign their own shoe contracts, sign endorsement contracts,” said sport and sneaker analyst Matt Powell. “Once you’re paid, all the rationale that you ‘can’t have a shoe contract’ or ‘can’t have a personal appearance contract’ goes out the window.”

University of New Hampshire sports and entertainment law professor Michael McCann said that in the O’Bannon decision it was important to note that the judge supported the amateur player mission of the NCAA, a point many have argued is hardly reality with multi-million dollar revenue generating sports like football and basketball. He said he could see a future where endorsement deals would happen, but it was far off in the  future.
 
“The judge ruling was consistent with their message of amateur sports, which is something that really helps them,” he said. “It solidified that for them and is important. I think the next wave is going to be about capping grants and aid, and whether it violates antitrust law.”
 
“The judge ruling was consistent with their message of amateur sports, which is something that really helps them,” he said. “It solidified that for them and is important. I think the next wave is going to be about capping grants and aid, and whether it violates antitrust law.”

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