NCAA President Mark Emmert will begin his testimony on Thursday in the O’Bannon class-action antitrust case. Here’s a look at the case, and some thoughts about what Emmert will say.
What is the O’Bannon case about?
The Los Angeles Times has a good summary: The case was “filed on behalf of former and current men’s basketball and football players, who are seeking an injunction against the NCAA that would effectively allow them to profit from the use of their names, images and likenesses in television broadcasts, rebroadcasts, video games and more.
“Filed by lead plaintiff and former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon five years ago, the case alleges that by agreeing on a blanket prohibition on commercial benefit to student athletes, the NCAA and its member colleges and conferences engage in price-fixing and refusal to deal, in violation of the Sherman Act.”
Why is Emmert’s testimony so important?
As NCAA president, Emmert’s views on amateurism carry great weight within the organization. In the past, he has staunchly defended the NCAA’s model — inelegantly, at times — arguing that it is essential to the concept of amateurism and helps ensure competitive balance for NCAA schools.
Here’s more from the Los Angeles Times:
While plaintiffs contend that NCAA players are athletes first and students second, the NCAA asserts that they are students who play sports as an avocation and whose athletic activities are an integral part of their overall educational experience.
Emmert is likely to speak to that experience, and the NCAA assertion that it would be radically altered if student athletes were professionally compensated.
What will the plaintiffs ask him?
Lawyers for the plaintiffs will likely ask Emmert about the purported hypocrisy of the NCAA’s stance: Namely, that Division I football and men’s basketball players do everything that professional athletes do, only without compensation. They will ask him about whether the NCAA has conducted studies about the possibility of compensating football and men’s basketball players, and about how the NCAA divvies up the massive amount of money it receives from television contracts.
Can I watch Emmert’s testimony anywhere?
Nope. The trial, which is taking place in Oakland, Calif., is not being televised/streamed. Steve Berkowitz and George Schroeder of USA Today are in Oakland and are good Twitter follows if you want real-time updates.
How long will Emmert testify?
Probably for more than one day. Trial sessions have lasted five hours per day, with two breaks. Plus, Emmert’s testimony will depart from the usual cross-examination format, where he is questioned by one side and then the other, with the scope limited to what was asked in the initial examination. Because both the plaintiffs and defendants had Emmert on their witness list, both sides will ask him questions without any limitations.