The attorney expressed reservations that, if named, the potential new plaintiff could lose eligibility or suffer retaliation for joining the lawsuit.
NCAA attorneys pooh-poohed the possibility.
“They have whatever rights they have,” said Gregory Curtner, representing the NCAA. “We don’t take away their rights.”
Yes, the same organization that profits from, among other things, video games that include the same jersey number, skin tone, athletic abilities, height, weight and hometown of “amateur” athletes is talking about their rights.
One internal Electronic Arts email from 2009 that’s part of the court record details the process tuning those not-so-random avatars to their real-life counterparts: “Check and tune key player ratings to ensure they stand out amongst the other players and are ‘authentic’ in their areas of expertise (eg. Sanders (VCU) top shot blocker, Chris Wright (Dayton) High Flyer, etc.).”
The same organization that, according to its confounding rule book, could punish an athlete who signed an autograph in exchange for a dime or who accepted a free ham sandwich.
That last one actually happened. Back in 2000, Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch had to repay $22.77 for a ham sandwich and brief flight that left him temporarily ineligible.
The athlete who stands up enters this world of make-believe amateurism, where rights are as illusory as a portion of the proceeds for, say, those athletes modeled in “NCAA Football 13.” The risk of such a move and the courage required isn’t small.
The legal implications are significant. Including all current athletes in the lawsuit adds the piles of television money being printed on their backs. Video games are one thing. The television issue could push potential damages — permitted to be tripled in antitrust cases such as this — into the billions.
The plaintiffs want to keep the athlete’s name, whenever he or she is added, secret. The judge didn’t seem moved.
Even so, how could the athlete keep the participation under wraps? How will his coach react to the inevitable distraction? His teammates? His athletic director? His conference commissioner, as the athlete takes aim at the machinery of the NCAA his livelihood revolves around?
It’s one thing for an athlete to express dissatisfaction with the current system; the consequences of joining the lawsuit that could obliterate the model will ripple around the country. Standing up, really, is just the beginning.