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Report: O'Bannon v. NCAA plaintiffs can add current athlete to lawsuit

Ed O'Bannon (above) and the plaintiffs are seeking class-action status in their case against the NCAA. (AP) Ed O'Bannon and the plaintiffs are seeking class-action status, but likely need the help of a current player to get it. (AP)

By Zac Ellis

The plaintiffs in an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA, EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Company will be allowed to amend their complaint to include a current college athlete as a new plaintiff, Steve Berkowitz of USA Today reports.

On June 20, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken heard arguments concerning class-action certification of the lawsuit put forth by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon and others against the NCAA and the two other co-defendants regarding the use of players' likenesses in video games and on television broadcasts. In a July 5 ruling, Wilken officially allowed the plaintiffs to include current athletes, and the plaintiffs' lawyers now have two weeks to amend their case, according to Berkowitz.

Wilken's decision was not unexpected. At the June hearing, she said the plaintiffs would need to actually add a current athlete to their ranks if they wanted to include current athletes in the proposed class. As SI.com's Andy Staples explained last month, any current athlete who joins the plaintiffs could be viewed as a hero if the lawsuit someday sparks some form of revenue-sharing between schools and student-athletes.

Today's ruling could point toward Wilken's willingness to certify the class. If class-action certification is granted, the possible damages to the NCAA could rise into the billions of dollars and reshape the organization's amateurism model.

SI.com's Stewart Mandel reported last month that the plaintiffs attorney, Michael Hausfeld, told reporters after the June 20 hearing that he planned on adding a current student or students to the suit. But Hausfeld also told Wilken the matter would have to be discussed privately because "we wouldn't want any current student retaliated against [by the NCAA]" for participating.
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