On July 17th, 2013 the sports world was hit with a devastating blow that left millions of sports fans around the country devastated and asking why. News spread fast across social media and left many fans asking how this could happen and what it meant for the future. No, this was not a sports icon failing a drug test or a labor battle between league and union that threatened a professional sport league, on this day, the popular NCAA Football series came to an end.
“Pay for play” in college athletics had become a popular talking point in the media. An increasing number of student-athletes and media members began asking why college athletic departments, who were enjoying increasingly high revenues, were not sharing those revenues with the student-athletes making those revenues possible. The NCAA of course hid behind its claims that paying student-athletes would jeopardize the “amateurism” of college athletics. That all change when Ed O’Bannon, a former basketball star at UCLA, filed an antitrust class-action lawsuit against the NCAA and EA Sports for using his likeness in the popular basketball series of the game while he was a student-athlete.
The move would change the landscape of the “pay for play” dialogue, shifting the focus from colleges and universities to the NCAA and EA Sports, entities with much deeper pockets who too had been guilty of “greed” and taking advantage of student-athletes. Someone was going to have to pay for this injustice, someone was going to have to pay for making billions off a video game that was too real, that used these young men’s likeness, physical features, jersey numbers and in some instances, God forbid, their hair style.
When the dust had settled, the NCAA and EA Sports did pay, and they each paid big. They not only paid in the quick to judge court of public opinion, but also paid financially. The parties agreed to a $60 million settlement, which on the surface seemed like a great first step to rectify this great “injustice” that had been occurring for years. But this week more details of the settlement and raised the question, “was it worth it?” The NCAA contributed $40 million to the settlement and EA Sports chipped in for the other $20 million. Finally justice had been served! Finally these student-athletes would receive proper compensation for their likeness being used! All 29,000 plus of them! That is correct, over 29,000 individuals joined the class-action lawsuit, meaning the average payout for each individual came out to $1200.
So after years of legal battles and after a settlement was reached to compensate these individuals, the average payout came out to a whopping $1200! Congratulations, you now have a down payment on a brand new KIA! So the question remains, was it worth it? Are you happy that it was determined your likeness is worth roughly the price of a brand new Whirlpool Refrigerator?
Throughout this entire process however, one clear winner did emerge, the plaintiff’s attorneys. Of the total settlement payout, the attorneys were compensated to the toon of $18.8 million. One is left to wonder, with compensation like that, will the plaintiffs now seek legal action against their attorneys? Do the plaintiffs feel like their attorneys took advantage of them like the NCAA and EA Sports did for a payday? Stay tuned…
Oh, and thanks Ed, I guess I will get back to Candy Crush now….
(Written By: Matt Harper)