by Dr. Boyce Watkins
This week a judge dismissed a motion by the NCAA to keep men’s basketball and football players from pursuing a cut of the live broadcast revenue being earned with their images. A federal judge made the ruling, which is going to make it more difficult for the NCAA to continue defending its current revenue model.
The ruling was made in reference to a lawsuit filed by former NCAA athletes, led by Ed O’Bannon, who once played for UCLA. The NCAA had originally fought to keep players from amending their existing lawsuit to obtain a cut of all television game revenue and not just the money coming from rebroadcasts. This can be quite costly for the NCAA.
“Now the (NCAA and its co-defendants) are facing potential liability that’s based on the billions of dollars in revenue instead of tens or hundreds of millions,” said Michael Hausfeld, interim lead counsel for the former athletes. “It’s a more accurate context for what the players deserve.”
The lawsuit has added other greats such as Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell, who all believe that former athletes should not have their likenesses used by the NCAA to earn revenue without giving them adequate compensation. To date, the only people who seem to get rich from these earnings are coaches, commentators, universities and those who never set foot on the court or the field.
A hearing has been set for June 20 where the NCAA is going to argue against giving class certification to the lawsuit. This statement was issued by NCAA general counsel Donald Remy:
“Although our motion to strike was denied, the judge has signaled skepticism on plaintiff’s class-certification motion and recognized the plaintiffs’ radical change in their theory of the case,” Remy said. “This is a step in the right direction toward allowing the NCAA to further demonstrate why this case is wrong on the law and that plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that this case satisfies the criteria for class litigation.”
A group of powerful law firms have invested over $20 million dollars in pursuing a lawsuit against the NCAA, literally licking their chops over the egregious anti-trust violations being consistently committed by the organization. It has been reported that a Former College Athletes Association (FCAA) has been formed, which will allow players to earn revenue from video game and media licensing after their playing days are over.
As I prepare for a debate with Jon Stossell at Fox Business over whether or not college athletes should be paid, I am happy to read that this important lawsuit has been allowed to move forward. Nearly all of us can agree that the individuals doing the work should be entitled to a reasonable share of the revenue. Right now, the NCAA is earning income on the magnitude of other professional sports leagues, but has the peculiar luxury of not having to compensate its employees in an adequate way.
It’s easy to argue that giving players a scholarship serves as a fair form of compensation. The lack of merit for such an argument is evidenced by the fact that the NCAA has to put so many rules in place to enforce this method of compensation. Were the free labor market allowed to persist (as it does for the rest of us), most college football and basketball players would be able to negotiate multi-million dollar salaries, just like their coaches. When you have to create a long list of player restrictions to protect your wealth extraction, chances are that the money was not rightfully yours in the first place.
I’ve never watched a college basketball or football game to see the coach. Most of us only watch the games to see the players. If this is the case, then why are the coaches earning as much as $5 million dollars per year and many of the players have mothers who can’t even afford to attend the games? This is an injustice and it also stinks of racial inequality. It’s time for this system to change.