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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Columns

Players deserve pay for likenesses


In 1995, Ed O’Bannon led the UCLA Bruins basketball team to an NCAA national championship.

Since last July, he has been at the forefront of a lawsuit against the NCAA for using the likenesses of student athletes to make money.

At first glance, it might seem as though O’Bannon filed suit because he wasted away any wealth he accumulated while playing in the NBA. According to the lawsuit, however, there is no amount for damages set at this point.

Every year, buzz is generated in offices and workplaces around the country, centered on who is picking which team to win March Madness. Hours are wasted examining scrupulous statistics to determine which team has the best big man or the fastest point guard.

During the months leading up to the tournament, an endless loop of commercials featuring past and present collegiate stars appears on television.

This is one of the problems O’Bannon has with the NCAA; the organization is still making money off of his likeness.

The NCAA has maintained over the years that paying student athletes would be detrimental to the purity of amateur sports. In an article published Monday in The New York Times, reporter Pete Thamel quoted Jon King of Hausfeld LLP, the lead lawyer in the case for plaintiff O’Bannon, saying, “We think the NCAA will defend this case saying they are protecting amateurism and trying to prevent excess commercialization.”

Regardless of how anyone feels about this subject, it’s undeniable that the NCAA makes a lot of money off student athletes.

While no NCAA student athlete from any sport should get paid to play, if the NCAA is still using a person’s likeness after they graduate, that person should be able to receive some type of royalty. Although certain student athletes are lucky enough to get full scholarships that pay for their education, they make up a very small percentage of all student athletes.

In professional sports leagues, athletes are protected by their respective players’ unions. The unions work together with the leagues to ensure that both the owners of the teams and the players get a fair deal—or at least one both sides can agree on.

But as there is no players’ union for student athletes, who, then, is supposed to protect them?

Some universities break NCAA rules and pay players to come play for them; if caught, this usually leads to the player being stripped of any records they may have accrued and results in the college vacating wins and/or losing scholarships.

For too long the NCAA has been a wolf in sheep’s clothing, making money off the sweat of players who bring in billions of dollars for the organization. The NCAA has yelled from the rooftops about how horrible the commercialization of college sports would be.

However, if you were one of the 30 million people who tuned in to watch the football game between the University of Texas and the University of Alabama on Jan. 7, you got a chance to enjoy the Citi BCS National Championship Game.

If that’s not the height of commercialization, I don’t know what is.

Harold Arnold is a business senior and may be reached at [email protected]


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