By Tim Ryan

OAKLAND (KCBS) — Whether or not college athletes should share in the billions of dollars they generate is at the heart of a trial underway in an Oakland federal courtroom Monday.

Former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon’s landmark antitrust class-action lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association began Monday after nearly five years of litigation.

The lawsuit contends the NCAA illegally profits from the commercial use of former student athletes’ images in video games, DVDs, photos, jerseys and other merchandise and doesn’t share any of the proceeds with former athletes.



O’Bannon, the lead plaintiff in the suit, said his goal at UCLA wasn’t to get a degree, but to get two years of college experience before being drafted into the NBA.

He helped his team earn a national championship in 1995, and was a tournament MVP. He played two years professionally for the New Jersey Nets and for another eight years overseas, mostly in Europe. Now at 41, he sells Toyotas in Las Vegas.

In 2008 one of O’Bannon’s friend’s son asked if he wanted to see himself on a video game. He was referring to his graphic likeness in the game.

O’Bannon’s attorney asked if he had consented to the game to use his likeness, asked to participate and if he was paid. The answer to all of those questions was no.

O’Bannon recalled dedicating 40 to 45 hours a week to the sport, but not much to his education. In fact he only earned his degree three years ago.

Under cross examination O’Bannon said he benefited from a free education, room and board, books, coaching and mentoring as well as the opportunity to shine on national television.

The NCAA said the notion of paying college athletes would kill amateur sports. The trial by judge and not by jury is expected to last about three weeks.


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