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In Denying O’Bannon Case, Supreme Court Leaves Future of Amateurism in Limbo

Article by Michael McCann in Sports Illustrated

Seven years after former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon filed a federal lawsuit against the NCAA over whether Division I men’s basketball and football players ought to be compensated for the commercial use of their names, images and likenesses, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied petitions by both O’Bannon and the NCAA to review the case.

The denial was expected. The Supreme Court only accepts about 1% of cases for review and frequently declines to hear cases of substantial importance to large classes of people—including, as illustrated here, thousands of college athletes, former college athletes and their respective universities.

The denial also leaves in place a 2015 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in favor of O’Bannon. A three-judge Ninth Circuit panel consisting of Judges Sidney Thomas, Jay Bybee and Gordon Quist found that certain NCAA amateurism rules violate federal antirust law. Those rules, the court determined, constituted an anti-competitive conspiracy by the more than 1,200 member NCAA colleges, conferences and affiliate organizations. The purpose of such a conspiracy was to deny men’s basketball and football players of the monetary value of their names, images and likenesses when used for commercial purposes.

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