Ruling a blow to NCAA`s insistence on amateurism

Oakland, California: In a potentially landmark ruling, a judge said Friday that denying student athletes in big-money US college sports the right to profit from their own likenesses is an unreasonable restraint of trade.

US District Judge Claudia Wilken handed down the ruling in Oakland, California, five weeks after a bench trial in the case brought by former University of California at Los Angeles basketball star Ed O`Bannon against the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

O`Bannon brought the suit five years ago after finding his image was being used in a sports video game.

The NCAA, which governs the hugely popular and immensely profitable college sports, has long insisted that the amateur status of student athletes is a cornerstone of the system.

Players can`t be paid, nor can they profit from merchandising of their names and images, something that has provoked bitter dissent as universities rake in millions of dollars in television and merchandising revenue for large-scale sports programs

Wilken issued an injunction that prevents the NCAA "from enforcing any rules or bylaws that would prohibit its member schools and conferences from offering their FBS football or Division I basketball recruits a limited share of the revenues generated from the use of their names, images and likenesses in addition to a full grant-in-aid."

The decision, which can be appealed, is another blow to the current system.

In March, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Northwestern University`s American football players are employees and can unionize.

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