A former star player long removed from his basketball career may seem an unlikely crusader for the rights of college student-athletes, both past and present. Ed O’Bannon, however, decided to take up that cause upon playing a video game at a friend’s house in 2009. That’s when he discovered that the game about the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament was using an electronic image of him and his former UCLA teammates who won the 1994-95 national championship in a popular, commercially sold game. O’Bannon decided to file a case, which became a class-action suit, against the NCAA for making money on the backs of college athletes without their consent. In “Court Justice,’ he tells the fascinating story that earned him a landmark court decision, even if it was one that involved no compensation.
Here’s an excerpt from Court Justice:
“I remember talking to Mom and Dad after I testified. They told me how proud they were that I was taking a stand for something I believed in and pursuing it all the way to a federal courthouse. Deep down, though, I kind of sensed that my parents had reservations about the whole thing. They knew I wasn’t going to get paid anything from this case, which I think they found to be admirable but also a little bit strange.
"And they knew that I had become a villain to a lot of people. I suspect that if my parents took a truth serum, they would admit that they wished I wasn’t the guy doing this. I bet it was hard for them to sit back and watch this lawsuit play out.
"And that makes sense. At least to some degree, this case changed my public reputation from former college basketball star to ‘that guy who sued the NCAA over video games.’ ”