A day after the plaintiffs' lawyers in an anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA and two co-defendants filed an amended complaint regarding the use of athletes' names, images and likenesses, the association's general counsel responded by acknowledging the threat the case presents to the collegiate model of amateurism.
"College sports today are valued by the student-athletes who compete and all of us who support them," said Donald Remy, the NCAA's vice president for legal affairs. "However, the plaintiffs' lawyers in the likeness case now want to make this about professionalizing a few current student-athletes to the detriment of all others. Their scheme to pay a small number of student-athletes threatens college sports as we know it.
"In particular, we would lose the very real opportunity for at least 96% of NCAA male and female student-athletes who do not compete in Division I men's basketball or FBS football to play a sport and get an education, as they do today."
The six players are Arizona's Jake Fischer and Jake Smith, Clemson's Darius Robinson, Vanderbilt's Chase Garnham and two Minnesota players, Moses Alipate and Victor Keise. All of them are seniors, except for Smith, who is a junior.
For the uninitiated, O'Bannon, a UCLA basketball legend, is the lead plaintiff on a long-running legal battle against EA and the Collegiate Licensing Co.
He is claiming, per the USA Today article:
[T]he defendants violated anti-trust law by conspiring to fix at zero the amount of compensation athletes can receive for the use of their names, images and likenesses in products or media while they are in school and by requiring athletes to sign forms under which they allegedly relinquish in perpetuity all rights pertaining to the use of the names, images and likenesses in ways including TV contracts, rebroadcasts of games, and video games.
Should he win, it would significantly change the entire landscape of the NCAA—whether by compensating athletes whose names, images or likenesses are used in media, or by simply not using any part of their identities.
As reported by the Associated Press (via ESPN), if the judge turns the lawsuit into a class action, thousands of current and former athletes could join the case, potentially forcing the NCAA to pay billions of dollars in damages if it loses.
On Wednesday, it was revealed that EA's licensing agreement with the NCAA will expire, raising concerns about the future of the popular NCAA video games.
In a statement on EA's website, the company's executive vice president, Andrew Wilson, had this reassuring news for fans of the game:
This is simple: EA SPORTS will continue to develop and publish college football games, but we will no longer include the NCAA names and marks. Our relationship with the Collegiate Licensing Company is strong and we are already working on a new game for next generation consoles which will launch next year and feature the college teams, conferences and all the innovation fans expect from EA SPORTS.
If O'Bannon and his new plaintiffs are able to win their case, however, it's safe to say it will put a major wrench in those plans.
"These [current] athletes are incredibly brave," said Michael Hausfeld, the lead attorney for O'Bannon's side (via ESPN). "They are well-aware of the risks of standing up to the NCAA, and yet they felt that this was the right thing to do."
The addition of the first active players is sure to change the outlook of the case.