Former UCLA men’s basketball player Ed O’Bannon filed his lawsuit against the NCAA in 2009 and it wasn’t settled until last August, when a federal judge ruled the organization was violating U.S. antitrust law by preventing college football and men’s basketball players from getting paid for the use of their names, images and likenesses.
The NCAA has appealed that decision, with a ruling by a U.S. circuit court still to come and a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court following after that. In the meantime, O’Bannon’s attorneys are getting paid.
Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com details a ruling Monday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathaniel Cousins that mandated the NCAA pay O’Bannon’s attorneys $44.4 million in fees and another $1.5 million in costs.
Both the NCAA’s argument and Cousins’s ruling had a certain literary bent, Solomon writes:
In trying to drastically reduce the O’Bannon lawyers’ fees, the NCAA referenced Charles Dickens’ book, “A Tale of Two Cities,” by framing the case as “a tale of two lawsuits.” The NCAA argued the original case filed in 2009 became much different in 2012, a point Cousins acknowledged to be the case and that O’Bannon’s lawyers lost some battles along the way.
“Perhaps a more apt allusion would have been to George R.R. Martin’s ‘Game of Thrones,’ where individuals with seemingly long odds overcome unthinkable challenges, but suffer stark losses along the path to victory,” Cousins wrote. “In Martin’s world, ‘When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.’ …
“For plaintiffs, their trial victory in this adventurous, risky suit, while more than a mere game, is nothing less than a win that warrants attorneys’ fees for work spent on all claims — successful or unsuccessful.”
Another argument the NCAA made in trying to reduce the legal fees was that O’Bannon’s lawyers were overstaffed. Cousins said the NCAA’s claims are “undercut by their own staffing decisions. For example, while it cries foul over plaintiffs’ counsels’ alleged overattendance at trial, the NCAA had close to a dozen attorneys, not to mention paralegals, assistants, and technical staff members, representing its interests at the trial.”
Solomon notes that the result of the appeal could have an impact on the final amount paid to O’Bannon’s attorneys.