July 24, 2009
Most of the reaction to Ed O'Bannon's NCAA lawsuit has been pretty positive. After all, O'Bannon is right. The NCAA doesn't deserve to hoard the rights to its former players' likenesses, especially since the NCAA spends all four years of a player's career making oodles of money from that player with little more than a scholarship -- no small chunk of change, but not enough to be proportional with what a star player brings in to a university -- in return.
What's more, O'Bannon's motives seem pretty pure. He has a quiet life. He's sitting on a bunch of European pro money. He sells cars for a living, and he takes his kids to their Little League games, and he hangs out with his wife. By all accounts, it sounds pretty placid. He doesn't need this. You could maybe even make the argument that what O'Bannon is doing is admirable, sticking his neck out for so many other screwed-over former players, but that might be taking it a little far.
What irks, though, is when one sees reactions like this:
As the catalyst of this class action lawsuit, O'Bannon is arguing on behalf of former Division I football and basketball players. O'Bannon states that the NCAA is a "for profit business" and the players receive "no compensation whatsoever." Apparently the $160,000 of free education, four years of room and board and a monthly stipend was not enough.
See, now that just seems kind of mean. That's from the usually good Searching For Billy Edelin (their post title: "We're not paying for this photo, but Eddie O thinks we should," which is kind of not the case at all, but whatever) which I chose not to pick on specifically but as an example of stuff I've sporadically seen elsewhere. The formula: Complain about the tuition and free room and board O'Bannon received as a star player at UCLA. Then make mention of his professional basketball flameout. Then ask where all his money went. Then, if you're feeling particularly snarky, make fun of O'Bannon's current job as a car salesman. Because there's nothing quite as fun as asserting your superiority over a former athlete who sells cars. The bum!
If you want to make the argument that the NCAA doesn't owe former athletes -- who generate a whole gob of money in video game and DVD and merchandising sales years after they've left college -- that's fine. Let's have that argument. If you feel uncomfortable with shoe maven Sonny Vaccaro urging O'Bannon into the lawsuit, that's fine too. There are valid counters here. But attacking Ed O'Bannon as if he's a greedy, desperate former jock with nowhere else to turn and nothing better to do but sue the NCAA? That's not fair. Let's all be better than that, shall we?