Knight Commission Statement on Supreme Court Declining to Take Up O’Bannon Case

Now that the case is resolved, Commission says it’s time for NCAA to step up reform to prioritize college athletes’ education, protect their health and safety

The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court declining to review the appeals court ruling in O’Bannon v. NCAA. The suit filed by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon sought to provide college athletes with compensation for the use of their names, images, and likenesses (NIL), benefits that are barred under existing NCAA rules.

Statement of Knight Commission Chair William E. “Brit” Kirwan, chancellor emeritus, University System of Maryland

For the past six years, a potentially game-changing lawsuit worked its way through the courts over the question of whether college sports should be required to play by a radically different set of rules regarding the compensation of college athletes. Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to deny hearing the appeals from either side in O’Bannon v. NCAA wraps up this case, but the issues raised by it are likely to persist.

While the Court’s decision to decline the O’Bannon case means that the NCAA’s fundamental financial structure and treatment of NIL rights has been upheld, the Knight Commission believes that the O’Bannon case has raised important concerns of college athletes that will continue to require the attention of higher education leaders. It is time for the NCAA, conferences, and university presidents to strengthen policies and practices to prioritize athletes’ educational experiences, ensure they are treated fairly and provide more protections and benefits for their health and safety. In addition, the involvement of college athletes themselves in governance is critical to address the policy issues triggered by the O’Bannon case.

The law may be settled here. But the quest to provide athletes with better educational opportunities and health and safety benefits is far from over.