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O'Bannon lawyer to NCAA: Don't punish current student-athlete who joins suit

Ed O'Bannon Plaintiffs in the Ed O'Bannon case want a guarantee the NCAA won't retaliate against an athlete who joins the case. (AP)

By Zac Ellis

The lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the Ed O'Bannon v. NCAA case has a request for the NCAA: Don't punish a current student-athlete for joining the lawsuit.

Last week, U.S. district judge Claudia Wilken ruled that the plaintiffs can add a current student-athlete to the antitrust suit against the NCAA, EA Sports and the Collegiate Licensing Company. The case is named for former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon and seeks damages for the use of student-athletes' likenesses in video games and television broadcasts.

Still, the plaintiffs' attorney wants to make sure any current student-athlete who joins the suit won't face retaliation from the NCAA -- and he wants that guarantee in writing, reports Jon Solomon of AL.com:

O'Bannon attorney Michael Hausfeld sent a letter to NCAA attorney Gregory Curtner requesting that the NCAA, on behalf of itself and its universities and conferences, agree they will not take "any adverse action of retaliation, intimidation, or coercion, including loss of scholarship, eligibility, or playing time" against a current athlete.

Hausfeld maintains that a current student-athlete's participation in the suit does not violate any existing NCAA bylaws. Wilken ruled that the plaintiffs have until July 19 to amend their complaint and add at least one current student-athlete.

In a statement to AL.com, NCAA chief legal offer Donald Remy confirmed that the organization has no plans to retaliate against any athlete who joins the suit:

"The NCAA has not seen the letter that the plaintiffs apparently have provided to the press instead, but to be clear the NCAA has stated publicly and in court that it does not and will not retaliate against any student-athlete who participates in legal action, including anyone who may choose to participate in this litigation."
At a June 20 class-action certification hearing, Hausfeld told Wilken that he planned to add at least one student-athlete to the suit. But Hausfeld also told Wilken the matter would have to be discussed privately, because he didn't “want any current student retaliated against [by the NCAA]."

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