In case you haven’t been following the Ed O’Bannon case, well, at all, here’s a succinct explanation of what’s happened, courtesy of Ben Strauss.
“Ed O’Bannon sees his name on a video game five years ago, (sneaker guru) Sonny Vaccaro introduces him to this anti-trust lawyer named Michael Hausfeld and they filed the suit in July 2009 in California in the ninth circuit court,” the New York Times writer said on Ferrall on the Bench. “After a maze of pre-trial hearings and countless attempts by the NCAA to dismiss the case, it’s a trial. You have three weeks of basically the NCAA on trial. The highlight of that is Mark Emmert (testifying in court Thursday). You’ve had people waiting for decades to see the president of the NCAA have to defend the college-sports model in a court of law under oath, cross-examined by a very skilled lawyer.”
That lawyer is Bill Isaacson, who has worked on several anti-trust lawsuits in the last 15 years.
“He’s no stranger to this type of litigation,” Strauss said.
That was apparent Thursday, as Isaacson went right at Emmert.
“This isn’t a jury trial,” Strauss clarified. “This is one judge (Claudia Wilken) that’s going to decide this. So there’s not a lot of . . . opening statements and lawyer talk and scenes out of Law & Order and that stuff. But basically, the plan (Thursday) was death by a thousand cuts.”
Isaacson called attention to several internal emails sent within the NCAA about revenue sharing and commercialism. Several emails admitted the hypocrisy of college sports (i.e. an unpaid work force in a billion-dollar industry).
“It’s showing that the NCAA has been aware of these issues for a long time, they’ve thought about acting and they haven’t,” Strauss said. “And now they’re in court.”
But will the NCAA lose? Will it have to pay players?
“You’re getting a decision on this case this summer, so before the football season starts this fall, you’re going to have a decision on the O’Bannon case,” Emmert said. “That doesn’t mean anything is going to change for this football season – because the NCAA or the O’Bannon lawyers, whoever loses, is going to appeal. They’re going to appeal to the appellate court and likely to the Supreme Court. And meanwhile, you have a slew of other anti-trust suits coming at the NCAA.”
One of those suits involves New York sports labor attorney Jeffrey Kessler, who is arguing that the NCAA has unlawfully capped player compensation at the value of an athletic scholarship.
“At some point, this is going to change,” Strauss said. “It’s probably not going to change as soon as this trial ends, but one of these cases is likely going to get to the Supreme Court, and at that point, the Supreme Court (will decide what’s going to happen). But there’s going to be changes.”
And they may come from the O’Bannon case.
Emmert said Thursday that college athletes cannot pitch products because commercialism would corrupt them. Isaacson then showed Emmert photos of Emmert wearing Nike gear and photos of product logos behind players at press conferences, for example.
If students make a living off marketing, Emmert said, then they’re not students anymore.
But is that exploitation, Judge Wilken asked, or is that something that you just don’t want?
Said Strauss, “That question coming from the judge was telling.”