Frank DeFord is the William Shakespeare of sports writing. His observations, articulations and points of view are amazingly clear and poignant. He covers a lawsuit filed against the NCAA which mirrors that of the TYR lawsuit against USA Swimming.
Background on the story: Ed O'Bannon was basketball player for UCLA. His likeness was featured in video games and all sorts of promotional endeavors. Since O'Bannon was an "amateur athlete", he was not entitled to any of the profits the NCAA made off of his likeness. He is suing the NCAA and now the NCAA has to admit how much money they made licensing these "amateur athletes" without having to pay them a dime.
Sharecropper comes to mind in that the "plantation owner", or NCAA in this case, owns the sport and the player has to do the work and hopefully build a portfolio of stats and subsequently bring that "harvest" to the pro leagues. If the athlete gets gets passed over, or injured then there is no return on his investment as an "amateur."
Here is where it gets obvious: The definition of a "amateur athlete" in sports is now obsolete since this country, among others, allows professional athletes to compete in the Olympics. Where or what venue insists on amateur athletes besides the Olympics? Answer, It's called college and they make "mad, phat, bank" off that rule and O'Bannon is arguing that this is a monopoly or antitrust violation. If players want to play, they got to work for free.
Frank De Ford at NPR articulates it better:
The names of a number of other former college athletes, some whom played as far back as the 1960s, will be revealed Wednesday, giving more substance to the charge that the NCAA has, for decades, withheld from athletes hundreds of millions, perhaps even billions, of dollars that it made by merchandising those athletes — not only in video games, but in DVDs, apparel, memorabilia and other profit realms.
But as Jon King, the lead lawyer for the players, says, "the case has much broader implications."
That is to say, while the train is leaving the station on the side track of video games, the end of the journey may well be the express end of amateurism — that vestige from the 19th century, which is almost unique to sport, postulating that athletes should happily work for free while everybody else in the game gets well compensated.
The NCAA, which is a nonprofit entity, must now open its books — the first time they've seen public scrutiny. That's just the start.