The NCAA snippily responded to demands that it assure a potential current student-athlete looking to join the O'Bannon case that they wouldn't be punished or threatened with "retaliation, intimidation, or coercion" for joining the suit, emphatically stating that would not be the case.
Saturday, United States District Judge Claudia Wilken had allowed the plaintiffs to amend their suit over use of likenesses in video games, allowing them to add a current student-athlete to the suit. Adding a current player would make the plaintiff's case much stronger and more dangerous to the NCAA, as it would bring the case closer to deciding the merits of pay-for-play.
But before bringing a player into the suit, attorney Michael Hausfield wanted to ensure the NCAA wouldn't punish that hypothetical player, or that adding a player to the suit wouldn't cost them their eligibility. So he gave USA Today a letter asking for the NCAA's assurance no such punishment would happen.
The association did not respond kindly. Seriously, read this and feel the sass, oozing out from behind legalese meant to hide it, with the NCAA saying they had "repeatedly" made it clear they would not punish students.
It points out that no NCAA rule implies players would lose their eligibility for suing the NCAA, and furthermore, that previous lawsuits against the NCAA had featured active players, and none had been punished. It adds that this exact topic had come up in previous court proceedings, when they had stated the exact same case. And it adds that Johnny Manziel had just sued someone trying to sell t-shirts with his likeness, and that he is very much able to play in the NCAA next year. (For free, of course.)
The NCAA also pointed out that they'd recently honored Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson in a ceremony at the Final Four, even though both are active plaintiffs in the case. Never mind the differences between Russell, Robertson, and a potential college player seeking to get a few bucks for the NCAA video game series, but, point taken.
The walls are caving in, but the NCAA is not going to go down without a fight.
Now that they've been assured a student-athlete wouldn't be punished, Hausfield and the legal team hoping to take out the NCAA need to seek out a current player willing to put his name on the line, a task that's easier now that there will be no feedback, but one that still could prove hard. Might I suggest Mizzou defensive tackle Lucas Vincent?