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Still other lawyers could revive Rick Johnson’s case against NCAA bylaws on a larger scale, and King thinks claims for the rights of college players may be viable also under laws pertaining to contracts, employment, and civil rights. “The public will see for the first time how all the money is distributed.” Vaccaro has been traveling the after-dinner circuit, proselytizing against what he sees as the NCAA’s exploitation of young athletes.Vaccaro had sought a law firm for O’Bannon with pockets deep enough to withstand an expensive war of attrition, fearing that NCAA officials would fight discovery to the end. Late in 2008, someone who heard his stump speech at Howard University mentioned it to Michael Hausfeld, a prominent antitrust and human-rights lawyer, whose firm had won suits against Exxon for Native Alaskans and against Union Bank of Switzerland for Holocaust victims’ families.Hausfeld read to me from page 390: The college player cannot sell his own feet (the coach does that) nor can he sell his own name (the college will do that).This is the plantation mentality resurrected and blessed by today’s campus executives. (He is now 89.) Was that part of the plaintiffs’ strategy for the O’Bannon trial? “I’d rather the NCAA lawyers not fully understand the strategy,” he said.A litany of scandals in recent years have made the corruption of college sports constant front-page news.We profess outrage each time we learn that yet another student-athlete has been taking money under the table.
The shoe salesman and the white-shoe lawyer made common cause. When I talked with Hausfeld there not long ago, he sat in a cavernous conference room, tidy in pinstripes, hands folded on a spotless table that reflected the skyline.“And every player knows those millions are floating around only because of the 18-to-22-year-olds.” Yes, he told me, even the second-string punter believes a miracle might lift him into the NFL, and why not?In all the many pages of the three voluminous Knight Commission reports, there is but one paragraph that addresses the real-life choices for college athletes.Sonny Vaccaro told a closed hearing at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D. “We want to put our materials on the bodies of your athletes, and the best way to do that is buy your school.Or buy your coach.” Vaccaro’s audience, the members of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, bristled.