No, the lawsuit does not directly involve A.J. Green, but it might as well.
A.J. is a current athlete and the lawsuit deals primarily with rights of athletes after they graduate. Still, the crux of the issue boils down to who owns a player's name and image. Does the NCAA own those rights? If so, how? Does the NCAA unfairly restrain trade (trade, such as an athlete's ability to sell a jersey with his name on it)?
The NCAA has got trouble in this case. Not only has the lawsuit survived, it has thrived. Eight separate complaints consolidated, a judge writing a preliminary opinion that favors the athletes.
Part of the danger for the NCAA is the wedge factor. The case has the potential for turning two allies into adversaries. Game manufacturers are not going to want to be sued. Because of the big penalties associated with using a person's likeness without permission, if push comes to shove they will turn on the NCAA. The manufacturers will readily turn over any representations from the NCAA, any sales boasting that the NCAA used to get EA Sports to fork out the big bucks.
Game manufacturers do not want to negotiate with a million athletes. They want to pay one price to an entity that has permanent, exclusive rights. I'm sure there are e-mails somewhere from the NCAA that make just that sort of claim.
In its defense, the NCAA says that the form which student athletes sign "...says nothing about the use of student-athlete images by member institutions, nothing about video games, and absolutely nothing about the right of a former student-athlete to sell his own collegiate image after graduation,”
Well if the form says nothing about video games, what in the world did they sell to EA Sports? Are the video game manufacturers so dumb that they spent a lot of money for nothing?
The NCAA can't have it both ways.
The case will be resolved way too late for A.J. and way too late for Georgia's football season this year. But the final decision may be broad enough to vindicate him-- not that A.J. didn't break the NCAA's rules, though that much is indeed in doubt, but that the NCAA's rules themselves are broken, out of step with fundamental American principles that support private enterprise, and out of date in a 21st century digital world.
Collegiate athletics is about to change.