| OAKLAND, Calif., June 9
OAKLAND, Calif., June 9 A former college
basketball star testified on Monday he was an athlete
masquerading as a student in a case that seeks to reshape
traditional notions of sports amateurism in the United States.
Edward O'Bannon, who won a national championship with UCLA
in 1995, is among over twenty current and former college
athletes who have accused the National Collegiate Athletics
Association (NCAA) of selling their names and likenesses to
broadcasters without compensating them, in violation of
He was the first witness to testify at trial on Monday in an
Oakland, California federal court.
The athletes' lawsuit, filed in 2009, takes on the highly
lucrative business of college athletics, where universities reap
billions of dollars from men's football and basketball, but
players are not allowed to profit. The NCAA argues that it
promotes amateurism and that the revenue from big money sports
supports a wide range of college athletics and benefits for
Student-athletes are increasingly trying to claim more of
those revenues and demanding to be treated more like employees.
In April, football players at Northwestern University became the
first U.S. student athletes to vote on whether to unionize.
O'Bannon said he usually spent about 40-45 hours per week on
basketball activities, and "maybe about 12 hours" on academics.
"I was there to play basketball. School work wasn't much of
a priority for me," O'Bannon said, adding: "I was an athlete
masquerading as a student."
Under cross examination from NCAA attorney Glenn Pomerantz,
O'Bannon acknowledged that he could have spent more time on
academics, but chose not to. Pomerantz also asked O'Bannon if
high school athletes or little league baseball players should be
paid if their games are televised.
"Yes absolutely, if they're generating revenue," O'Bannon
Besides O'Bannon, other named plaintiffs include legendary
basketball players Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell. Trial is
expected to last about three weeks in an Oakland, Calif. federal
court, and the athletes are seeking a court order to force the
NCAA to change its business model, not monetary damages.
In a separate announcement on Monday, the NCAA said it has
settled claims brought by players over likenesses sold to
videogame maker Electronic Arts Inc for $20 million.
The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of
California is In Re NCAA Student-Athlete Name & Likeness
Licensing Litigation, 09-1967.
(Reporting by Dan Levine; editing by Andrew Hay)