A federal judge ruled against the NCAA prohibiting its athletes from being compensated for their likeness, according to CBS Sports.
The case was part of a federal antitrust lawsuit brought by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, who alleged his likeness was used in a video game without proper compensation. In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled the NCAA is not allowed to prohibit member schools from compensating athletes for “limited share of the revenues generated from the use of their names, images and likenesses in addition to a full grant-in-aid.”
Wilken did stop short of allowing students to sign endorsement deals outright.
“Allowing student-athletes to endorse commercial products would undermine the efforts of both the NCAA and its member schools to protect against the ‘commercial exploitation’ of student-athletes,” Wilken said in the ruling.
The ruling also allows schools to set up a trust payable to players upon the end of their eligibility with the school. It does not take effect until the next football recruiting cycle in 2016.
“This is a game-changer for college athletes, both current and former,” O’Bannon said in a statement. “From the outset when I saw my image being used as a character in a video game, I just wanted to right a wrong. It is only fair that your own name, image and likeness belong to you, regardless of your definition of amateurism. Judge Wilken’s ruling ensures that basic principle shall apply to all participants in college athletics.”
However, NCAA Chief Legal Officer Donal Remy had a less glowing opinion on the matter.
“This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education,” Remy said in a statement. “Student-athletes are not employees, and their participation in college sports is voluntary. We stand for all student-athletes, not just those the unions want to professionalize.”
The ruling is just the latest change to the NCAA model. On Thursday, the NCAA board of directors voted to allow the five biggest conferences – the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12 – to decide on different rules such as cost-of-attendance stipends, player insurance and recruiting rules. In March, the National Labor Relations Board ruled football players at Northwestern University were allowed to hold a vote on whether or not to unionize.
Both sides previously said they expect Wilken’s ruling to be appealed regardless of the outcome.