Good for these guys. I’ll get behind nearly anyone who takes on the NCAA:
Oscar Robertson is asked to affix his autograph to various items every day and he recently discovered a new one being pushed in front of him by fans – trading cards featuring him as a player at the University of Cincinnati. Some come with a swath of his “game jersey” attached. Others have him in his freshman number, 22.
This was not a product he recalled approving for his likeness to be used. He tried calling the trading card companies (Upper Deck, Donruss) for an explanation yet couldn’t get a response.
The answer was the NCAA had signed licensing deals with the companies without Robertson’s direct consent. The association maintains it has the right to control a player’s likeness in perpetuity.
The lawsuit does not question the NCAA’s ability to market current players, but argues that the NCAA should not be able to maintain control over people forever.
The plaintiffs’ case is being argued by a slew of law firms, including the renowned Washington-based Hausfeld LLP, which specializes in difficult class action suits, having previously secured reparations for Holocaust survivors from Swiss banks.
“Oscar’s participation show that even the greats of the game have any power to control their image,” Jon King, co-lead attorney, told Yahoo! Sports. ‘The NCAA has just assumed it.”
The NCAA has argued they maintain the rights to a players’ likeness forever in legal briefings. It believes it, its marketing arm – Collegiate Licensing Company – and partner companies Thought Equity Motion and Collegiate Images, LLC are compliant with the law. The organization did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the additional complaints, although it traditionally rejects comment until it has time to review legal documents.
Former UCLA Bruins star Kareem Abdul Jabbar recently filed suit against the NCAA in California state court based on the same trading cards featuring Robertson.
At stake is a share of the estimated $4 billion market for collegiate licensed merchandise, a business that has exploded over the last 15 years.
If the NCAA were to lose the case it would not only face a potential initial punitive ruling, it may be forced to begin sharing with former players. Athletic departments are already scrambling to meet soaring costs by cutting teams. Just 14 of the 120 athletic departments that play major college football turned a profit in 2009 according to the Department of Education.
I’m not sure what the rules for college sports should be, but whatever they’re doing now is just skeevy.
(and really? Just 14 out of 120 athletic departments turned a profit? Wow).