In a game-changing decision about profits from college athletics broadcasting, United States District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled Friday that athletes seeking revenues from television and video games that use their image can proceed with a lawsuit.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Judge Wilken ruled that the players could sue the National Collegiate Athletic Association in a class action, but that they could not seek damages for past financial losses.
The NCAA currently bars athletes from earning money on their images, despite the billions that universities pull in from televised football and basketball games. The lawsuit stands to change that rule.
Known as the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit for the UCLA basketball player that first put the suit forward, the case was first filed in 2009, with lawyers seeking to create a new system that would give players a cut of broadcasting and videogame revenues. This money would go into a fund that players would only have access to when they were no longer actively playing.
USA Today called the ruling a "fundamental change in scholarship rules and the concept of amateurism” in college sports.
Michael Hausfeld, one of the lead plaintiff’s attorneys, wrote in a press release following the ruling: "The court's decision is a victory for all current and former student-athletes who are seeking compensation on a going forward basis.”
“While we are disappointed that the court did not permit the athletes to seek past damages as a group, we are nevertheless hopeful that the court's decision will cause the NCAA to reconsider its business practices."
NBC Sports reported that there have been hints all year, especially concerning college football, about a change to the current system. The video game industry is particularly threatened after the NCAA and conferences pulled their licensing deals from EA Games. That part of the case has since been settled, as it was determined too difficult to tell a player’s likeness in a video game to accurately decide who was owed revenue.
The NCAA could still attempt to appeal Wilken's ruling.