« Sports

The Exploitation Of The Student-Athlete

by Tom King

Ed O'Bannon was an excellent college basketball player. He led UCLA to the 1995 NCAA National Championship. But his lasting legacy may be ending the current system of exploitation of college athletes by the NCAA and its member schools. O'bannon is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the NCAA over the use of the names and likeness of college athletes with no compensation. He has since benn joined in the suit by Oscar Robertson and others. It all stems from a video game from EA Sports. The suit alleges that the NCAA, EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Co. violated anti-trust laws. It accuses the NCAA of fixing the amount of compensation that players can recieve at zero. A judge last week asked the plaintiffs to add a current player to the lawsuit and six were including Moses Alipate of Minnesota. Later this summer a judge will also decide if the suit can become a class-action filing.

The stakes have been raised. The NCAA claims that a finding against them would end college sports. That funding would not be available for all of the athletes that don't play football or basketball. Michael Hausfield, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs says that is nonsense. A recent study by a group of academics concluded that allowing athletes to share in revenues would not disrupt the financial condition of athletic programs. 

The NCAA has announced it will no longer allow EA Sports to use its name and logo in video games. The idea that athletic scholarships are compensation enough is a concept that is long past. The billions of dollars generated by these athletes...and lets face it...without the athletes there would not be the billions of dollars generated...should be shared. It's wrong for the NCAA (an organization that needs to be disbanded, but thats a discussion for another day) to keep the guts that feed the system begging at the doorstep for a few dollars to go home for the weekend. Does it seem right to you that a player featured in a video game cannot afford a game that uses his likeness?

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive is a proponent of stipends for athletes and called for a re-examination of the NCAA governance. He asked if the schools are going to trust the NCAA to make the right call in how far they will go to defend this lawsuit and will they gamble to bring this to trial. He suggested it would be much better for the member schools to help craft a settlement they can live with. I woould agree...but this may be an oppourtunity to kill the NCAA organization once and for all...and that may be worth even more.