NCAA has another gender to think about
U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken's recent decision, that the NCAA violates antitrust law by preventing football and men's basketball players from being paid for use of their names, images and likenesses, was prudently narrow, addressing the only two classes of student-athletes included in the lawsuit.
It was also significantly easier for Wilken to maintain a narrow scope from her perch in northern California than, say, were she here in our corner of the world, where the women's sports revolution rolls on.
Interested parties await the other shoe (perhaps an Espadrille) to drop, the Title IX-issue-in-waiting of whether female college athletes get in on the money.
And who knows whether landmark litigation happens here in Connecticut, where women's sports are perceived differently than anywhere else in the country?
Example: The "names, images and likenesses" of UConn women's basketball player Breanna Stewart are far more familiar to the average state sports fan than every single UConn football player. And yet Wilken's decision leaves Stewart and other prominent women's athletes awaiting this issue's progression.
The newest buzzword in college sports - cost of attendance - refers to expenses not covered by an athlete's full scholarship, such as transportation to and from campus, laundry, personal care items, insurance and recreation. (Room and board, tuition and books, for example, are covered).
There's an antitrust scholarship lawsuit against the NCAA that Wilken oversees, according to several published reports, some of whose plaintiffs are female athletes. Good chance this topic arises. Or will it arise from simple instinct?
"We are in UConn country. Breanna Stewart's, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis' images are dominant," Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan, once a prominent athlete, too, said Wednesday at Mohegan Sun Arena. "They bring people in. They bring revenue in. It doesn't make sense to me that (this ruling is) gender specific. It seems to me that if there is income earned based on your image, whoever's image is being used should be entitled to some compensation."
The narrowness of Wilken's decision wasn't relegated to mere gender. She also limited licensing revenues to "video games, live telecasts, re-broadcasts and archival game footage," and not jerseys and bobblehead dolls. Fox Sports reported that "there was no direction as to what portion of that revenue is attributable to the student-athletes, and in fact schools aren't required to share anything. The NCAA simply cannot prohibit it."
Yet what happens if some enterprising attorney argues semantics and decides that "names, images and likenesses" surely include jerseys and bobbleheads, almost by definition?
Or what happens in the curious case of Sun forward Chiney Ogwumike, the Stanford-educated forward who graduated in June, leaving behind an intellectual property on which the university is still likely making money?
Ogwumike became the unwitting CEO of "Nerd Nation," a gaggle of Stanford athletes who wrote and produced a video that totally and completely embraces the relationship between the classroom and the locker room.
Ogwumike starred in "N-E-R-D-S," (hashtag #nerdanthem) that taught anyone watching, through the power of hip hop music and hip college kids hopping (even Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks), that academics are neato, awesome and swell, too.
The video's mien, means and medium were attention-getters for kids, many of whom attended Stanford games wearing nerd glasses and wearing the requisite T-shirts. Which are on sale in the Stanford bookstore.
Can anybody make an argument with a straight face Ogwumike doesn't deserve some compensation … at some point?
"My educational experience at Stanford has completely compensated me for life," Ogwumike, an effortlessly cool 22-year-old, said Wednesday. "But thinking with my professional lens, I would want to make sure I'm protected if I want to use my intellectual property. Personally, I wouldn't care. But as a professional, you have to look out for yourself. You want to protect your intellectual property creatively."
Just as Title IX has many more layers than mere equal opportunity in terms of participation, so, too, does the compensation issue. And yet it might be as easy as this: Title IX also guarantees equality in terms of "financial assistance." That could be construed thusly: You compensate a male athlete $5,000 for his image, you compensate a female the same for her image, too.
Fascinating. Esoteric in spots. But fascinating. And we might be right in the middle of it, here where women's sports count.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.
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