ESPN’s Jay Bilas takes NCAA store to task for profiting off player likenesses
By Zac Ellis
As the NCAA investigates Johnny Manziel allegedly profiting off his own autographs, calls of the governing body’s hypocrisy have exploded. ESPN college basketball analyst and resident NCAA critic Jay Bilas unleashed a series of critical tweets Tuesday featuring screenshots of the NCAA’s online shop, ShopNCAAsports.com. Though team T-shirts and jerseys found at the store don’t feature the names of current players — per NCAA rules — Bilas stumbled upon a glaring correlation between current student athlete’s names and jersey numbers.
Bilas, fueled by his anger over the NCAA’s hypocrisy, even took a shot at the executive committee:
After Bilas’ searches began to make waves on social media, the NCAA online store put an end to the fun.
Former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon’s case against the NCAA, EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Company over the use player likenesses in television broadcasts and video games gets to the crux of the issue. The lawsuit went before a U.S. Circuit Court judge in June for hear arguments for class-action certification. In July, U.S circuit judge Claudia Wilken ruled that the plaintiffs could amend their complaint and add a current-student athlete to the lawsuit, a move that many considered a precursor to certifying the suit. Six current college football players joined the suit soon after.
In response to the plaintiffs’ request for class-action status, the NCAA released a statement in April reiterating that the organization does not exploit student-athletes.
“The fact remains — the NCAA is not exploiting current or former student-athletes but instead provides enormous benefit to them and the public. Plaintiffs are wrong on the facts and wrong on the law. The NCAA remains hopeful the court will agree and deny this motion.”
EA Sports lost a separate but similar case earlier this month, one put forth by former Arizona State quarterback Sam Keller surrounding the use of player likenesses in video games. EA Sports lost an appeal of a U.S. District Court decision which ruled that the video-game maker could not use former athletes’ likenesses without consent or compensation. The ruling could have an impact on the O’Bannon v. NCAA case.