I’m not a lawyer and I don’t even play one on TV. What I like to believe, however, is that I have common sense, something that evades the NCAA.
For an organization that has prided itself on doing what’s right (allegedly), the NCAA comes across as remarkably tone deaf, greedy, arrogant, short-sighted and, well, stupid.
That’s the way it reads in the saga that is O’Bannon v. NCAA, a lawsuit brought by Ed O’Bannon that challenges the NCAA’s right to use a former player’s name and likeness in perpetuity without paying one red cent for the privilege of doing so.
O’Bannon and other former college athletes are suing the NCAA, Electronic Arts, creator of the popular and soon-to-be-doomed (they’re not making one next year) video game based on the likeness and stats of former college ballplayers, and Collegiate Licensing Co.
Now, however, they’re just suing the NCAA because the other two entities reached a settlement worth a reported $40 million that will compensate thousands of former players, according to reports.
The NCAA is apparently having nothing to do with it and will proceed despite the fact that a judge refused to issue a summary judgment in the college organization’s favor Friday that would have dismissed a suit. In other words, it marches on with only the NCAA as a defendant.
Electronic Arts and College Licensing committed an act of intelligence — getting out while the getting is good. They have to cough up some cash — as they should — to 20 plaintiffs who joined the O’Bannon suit. There are other issues that remain, including a potentially huge one which would determine whether the group of athletes represents a class that has been wronged, which could potentially bring in more plaintiffs and cause any judgment to balloon exponentially. But let’s not go there just yet.
The NCAA continues to cling to a 1984 Supreme Court ruling that ruled that players couldn’t be paid.
I’m no constitutional scholar, but I’d argue that it was the wrong decision then and is the wrong one now.
However, let’s deal with the issue at hand. This isn’t about athletes getting paid for their performance in whichever arena they excelled. This is about them getting paid for their likeness being used.
That has always been my primary gripe about the NCAA’s “amateur” rules. They can’t sign autographs for cash. They can’t do endorsements gained from their fame. And they can’t do personal appearances.
Aren’t they the ones who sell the jerseys and fill the stadiums? (Please don’t give me that tradition nonsense because if a team stinks no one is showing.)
The answer is yes, yet they don’t get paid. The NCAA can continue to posture all it wants with regard to this entire scenario, but with all due respect, autographs, endorsements and personal appearances have very little to do with a person’s amateur status.
The only thing that might be more antiquated than the organization’s rule on what defines amateurism is the NCAA itself.
By pressing on with its crusade in this case, it shows an unwillingness to deal with reality and to evolve. Despite what the powers that be might want to believe at the NCAA offices, institutions that don’t evolve usually perish via extinction.
The Fall Classic, the 2013 World Series, continues to be a winner for Fox (WJW Channel 8) with overall ratings rising 11 percent over last year. It’s not difficult to surmise that heightened drama and freaky finishes might play a role in that success. Numbers should only go higher given that Fox is now guaranteed the series will go at least six games. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig must be paying homage to the baseball god about now.