Ex Bruin, All American and former national player of the year Ed O'Bannon is suing the NCAA for using his image without his permission. O'Bannon, who has always appeared as a man of immense dignity, sells cars in Las Vegas, the last I heard, so he certainly has an economic reason to file suit. The decision to allow the case to proceed has been profiled in USA Today and The Chronicle of Higher Education.
While the article was written awhile ago, I recently asked a good friend about it. The friend was a major retailer in town before he retired, is a huge basketball fan and is not fond of lawyers. Here is his lay view:
“Clearly the NCAA should clearly state, in their scholarship agreements, their intentions with respect to commercial use of images. In fact, a "miranda" type announcement separately signed by the players should be required.
Even with that , their is a difference (to me) between using photographs and film of players versus using their electronic 'embodiment' in a video game, especially one that is interactive. An audio/video/visual record of a player in college is one thing but the creation of a virtual 'likeness' is quite beyond that.
Does the NCAA claim that they have the right to have an electronic interactive all star game featuring say Bill Russel, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, Lew Alcindor etc without compensating the players?
I suppose that one might make the argument that their is a substantitive difference between using a player while he is on scholarship as opposed to later after he had cemented hall of fame credentials in the pros.”
I do not want this to be another hosanna about the evils of money in college sports, but with rich new contracts, and rich new penalties against USC, Ohio State and Miami, perhaps we are at the watershed.