NCAA Opens Door for College Athletes to Benefit from Name, Image, and Likeness

NCAA Opens Door for College Athletes to Benefit from Name, Image, and Likeness

Minami Tamaki represented college athletes in the landmark case of O’Bannon v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”), which challenged the NCAA’s long-running policy of denying college athletes compensation for the use of their names, images, and likeness. 

Northern District of California Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in favor of the athletes in 2014, holding that the NCAA’s rules and bylaws operate as an unreasonable restraint of trade, in violation of antitrust law.  In 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed Judge Wilken’s ruling that the NCAA had violated antitrust laws.

The O’Bannon case opened the door for additional challenges to the NCAA “amateurism” model and helped to lay the groundwork for proposed changes to the NCAA’s policies. 

On October 29, 2019, the NCAA took a major step toward allowing student-athletes to receive compensation for the use of their name, image, and likeness.  In a significant policy shift, the NCAA’s Board of Governors voted unanimously to permit college athletes to benefit from their fame “in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.”  The Board directed the three NCAA divisions to prepare to update their policies and bylaws by January 2021.

The NCAA’s announcement comes as the organization faces increased pressure to allow college athletes to receive benefits beyond the cost of attendance.  States across the country have begun to introduce legislation pushing for name, image, and likeness rights for college athletes.

On September 30, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the “Fair Pay to Play Act,” which allows college athletes to sign endorsement deals, hire agents, and make money off of their name, image, and likeness.  The law goes into effect in 2023. 

United States Representative Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, a former Ohio State University football player, has stated that he plans to introduce a bill in Congress allowing players to monetize their name, image, and likeness.  Rep. Gonzalez stated in a press release that he was “encouraged” by the NCAA’s recent announcement.

The details of any changes to the NCAA’s “amateurism” policy are still to be determined, and it remains to be seen whether the organization will actually make the changes called for by lawmakers and player advocates. 

Despite its recent announcement, the NCAA maintains that the California law is unconstitutional, and is reported to be considering a legal challenge. Nonetheless, the NCAA’s openness to modernizing name, image, and likeness rules is a major development for college athletes.  The announcement provides hope for changes that will alter the economics of college sports and compensate athletes for their contributions.

Minami Tamaki litigates class actions on behalf of individuals who have been harmed by anti-competitive and unlawful business practices.  If you have a concern about unfair or fraudulent business practices, you may contact us through our online form or call us at 415-788-9000 to set up a free consultation.

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