Ed O’Bannon dropped by Taz & The Moose to discuss, among other topics, his new book, Court Justice: The Inside Story of My Battle against the NCAA. O’Bannon, an outspoken critic of the NCAA’s model of amateurism, has received backlash for putting words to paper and defending his cause.
“I did,” O’Bannon said. “When you attempt to change a system that has been in place for so long, it comes as a shock. I don’t think that people were ready to hear what we had to say.”
O’Bannon, 45, led UCLA to the national championship in 1995. He believes that college athletes should be paid and have control of their likeness, among other changes. He also believes better communication is needed.
“I think the biggest thing is for everybody, both parties – players and NCAA – (is) to get on the same page,” he said. “Maybe get in the room together and talk about what’s going on now, what the rules are now, how they can change, what would benefit both parties, and really just communicate, have simple dialogue. I think that’s first and foremost what needs to happen. It would obviously be a long process, but first and foremost is opening up the lines of communication.”
O’Bannon, the ninth overall pick in 1995, felt exploited as a college athlete.
“It was something that I noticed, as well as my teammates, and we would talk about it,” he said. “It would just kind of come up in conversation But at the same time, we knew that it was a part of the system and there was nothing we could do about it.”
O’Bannon’s mindset had shifted over the last two-plus decades. He wants change, and he wants to empower student-athletes to bring about that change.
“Be aware of what is rightfully yours,” O’Bannon advised student-athletes. “I think social justice comes into play. Understand what is rightfully yours. Your likeness is yours. It’s something God gave you, and you have the rights to it. I think the sooner the athlete understands that and recognizes that they have the power to actually address the system, make some changes while there – if of not while there, at least for the next athletes that are coming in – then they can make that change.
“But again, when you’re on scholarship and everything that you do has been a coach telling you what to do, how to do it, when to do it – it’s the system that you’re in and that’s kind of what you have been accustomed to,” O’Bannon continued. “It’s hard to break that mold as an athlete. But the sooner the athlete understands that they have certain rights and they have certain power, (the better). If they want to use those powers, they can stand up for themselves and control their likeness, grow their brand while in school, that sort of thinking. It’s really up to the athlete to change the system – because obviously the NCAA is not going to do it by themselves.”