OAKLAND, Calif. – Former college basketball standout Ed O’Bannon and his lawyers sought on Thursday to dramatically expand his lawsuit challenging the NCAA’s ban on compensating athletes in a move that could expose the organization and its member schools to billions of dollars in damages.
O’Bannon and his lawyers asked a federal court judge to turn their antitrust lawsuit into a class action, representing thousands of former and current college athletes. The lawsuit demands that the NCAA find a way to cut players in on the billions of dollars earned by college sports from live broadcasts, memorabilia sales, video games and in other areas.
U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken didn’t rule on either the merits of O’Bannon’s case or his demands to turn the case into a class action. It could take weeks, even months, before Wilken rules.
Instead, she ordered O’Bannon’s lawyers to revise the lawsuit to fix some legal technicalities, including explicating adding current players to the lawsuit. Lawyer Michael Hausfeld said he will file a new lawsuit that includes current players, but will seek to keep their names confidential.
“They are afraid of retaliation,” Hausfeld told the court.
NCAA lawyer Greg Curtner is against certifying the lawsuit as a class action, arguing that the claims of thousands of collegiate athletes are too different to be treated the same. For instance, certain athletes bring in more revenue than others and have different legal claims at stake.
The NCAA argues that many of the athletes receive scholarships in exchange for playing sports and to pay student athletes would ruin amateur athletics. To pay athletes more than that would ruin collegiate sports, the NCAA argues.
The NCAA’s revenues have skyrocketed in recent years – it recently signed a $10.8 billion, 14-year television deal for basketball – and so have the demands of athletes to share in the money.
“I’m doing this for change,” O’Bannon said outside court.
The star of the NCAA 1995 basketball champion UCLA Bruins traveled from his Las Vegas home to attend the hearing Thursday.