Identity Crisis

Texas Bar Journal - January 2014

4 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2014

Date Written: November 4, 2013


This article sets out the development of the landmark case of former UCLA basketball star Ed O' Bannon who is suing the NCAA. O'Bannon questions the NCAA's bylaws and procedures regarding payment of student athletes. The pivotal question rests on the NCAA's use of athlete's name, image or likeness during and after his or her collegiate athletic career.

The answer to these questions involves the right of publicity. The right of publicity is a protectible property interest in one's name, identity or persona. Every person-celebrity or non-celebrity - has the right of publicity that is the right to own, protect and commercially exploit one's identity.

O'Bannon's antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA challenges the right of the NCAA and others to use commercially student-athletes' likeness without paying them. In November 2013 U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken of the Northern District of California, partially certified class-action status in O'Bannon v NCAA involving current and future college athletes, but not former ones.

It is possible that the NCAA's guiding principle of preserving amateurism and player competition "for the love of the game" at the collegiate level may become a joy of the past.

Keywords: O'Bannon v. NCAA, Right of Publicity, Student-Athletes, Paying College Players

Suggested Citation

Johnson, James A., Identity Crisis (November 4, 2013). Texas Bar Journal - January 2014, Available at SSRN:

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