O’Bannon dealt tough blow

By: Isabel Smith ~Staff Writer~

In a decision that New York Times op-ed columnist Joe Nocera deemed a “hollow victory” for Ed O’Bannon over the NCAA, the United States Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a portion of federal judge Claudia Wilken’s ruling that the NCAA’s practices violated federal antitrust laws. The former power forward for the UCLA Bruins claimed the NCAA “used the names, images and likenesses of college athletes to profit commercially without compensating the athletes.” He won his antitrust lawsuit regarding the issue in August 2014.

In addition, Wilken also ruled that the NCAA is required to allow its member institutions to compensate student athletes with $5,000 a year in addition to the money received for cost of attendance. The case went on to a higher court, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where the panel ruled the latter part of Wilken’s decision as “erroneous.”

“The NCAA is not above the antitrust laws, and courts cannot and must not shy away from requiring the NCAA to play by the Sherman Act’s rules …. The Rule of Reason requires that the NCAA permit its schools to provide up to cost of attendance to their student athletes. It does not require more,” the panel wrote in regard to the case. The panel deciding the case consisted of three judges. The panel’s decision produced a 73- page opinion regarding Wilken’s ruling. Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas agreed with Wilken’s decision in favor of the additional compensations but was overruled by the other two members of the panel.

In the New York Times, Nocera wrote that while O’Bannon’s lawyer quickly labeled it a victory, the Ninth Circuit decision was a bitter blow to the former UCLA star. Deeming the NCAA as an antitrust violater is positive for O’Bannon, but the additional compensation component is key to his argument. While the former basketball player’s team deemed the decision a win, the NCAA’s president was also “pleased” with the outcome.

The case has made evident the strong divide in the world of college athletics. The line of amateurism and professionalism is blurred. In the future, we will likely see the market of college sports and the treatment of student athletes transform. Following the Ninth Circuit decision, the NCAA may take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.