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Monday, February 26, 2024 | Back issues
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9th Circ. Won’t Revisit Student-Athlete Pay Case

(CN) - The Ninth Circuit has rejected college athletes' request for a full rehearing of its ruling that cash compensation for the use of athletes' likenesses would jeopardize their amateur status.

Ed O'Bannon, a former basketball star at UCLA, led the 2009 lawsuit alleging that student athletes have a right to share in the profits the NCAA makes from licensing players' names, images and likenesses to video game companies like Electronic Arts.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken enjoined the NCAA's rules last summer after a two-week bench trial, finding that the class had shown an injury to competition in the market for recruits' athletic services. She directed schools to set aside $5,000 per player each year for the use of their likenesses, funds that would be held in trust for them while they were in college.

In September, a split three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit overturned the compensation portion of Wilken's ruling, finding relief for the athletes must be limited to tuition coverage.

"In finding that paying students cash compensation would promote amateurism as effectively as not paying them, the district court ignored that not paying student-athletes is precisely what makes them amateurs," Circuit Judge Jay Bybee wrote for the panel at the time.

O'Bannon petitioned for an en banc review, but the original panel ruled 2-1 against rehearing the case.

The only judge who voted to rehear the case was Circuit Judge Sidney Thomas, who also provided the lone dissenting opinion in the September ruling. Thomas said at the time that the majority should not have dismissed expert testimony that found paying student athletes small amounts of money above their tuition would not have a significant effect on consumer interest in college sports.

The parties will now decide whether they want to bring the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. They have about 90 days to file an appeal.

NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said in a statement that the NCAA will explore its next steps.

"The NCAA is pleased with the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' denial of the plaintiffs' en banc rehearing request. As we said previously, the petition did not meet the standard for a rehearing en banc," Remy said.

Attorneys for the athletes did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment sent Thursday afternoon.

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