The 63-year-old Wilken is no stranger to this case, sports law or class certification hearings. She denied the NCAA and EA's attempts to have O'Bannon's case dismissed, though she did reject several of O'Bannon's claims in the process. On balance, her pretrial rulings have favored O'Bannon.To read the rest, click here.
Wilken also presided over a recent settlement in Pecover v. EA. In that class action, consumers sued over EA's exclusive licensing deals with the NFL, NCAA and the Arena Football League. Those deals prevented rival video game publishers from releasing their own football games with real teams and players. The case was recently settled, with EA agreeing to pay $27 million into a fund that can be claimed by consumers of EA football games. The fact that the parties reached a settlement under Wilken's watch bears notice, as O'Bannon and the NCAA could ultimately do the same.
Wilken usually certifies classes. SI.com conducted an analysis of her 29 orders on class certification from 1998-2013. It found that she denied certification only six times (21 percent), while she granted certification 18 times (62 percent) and partially granted it five times (17 percent). Keep in mind, these orders concerned facts and claims mostly dissimilar from those raised by O'Bannon. Thus they may not be accurate predictors. Still, Wilken's history is a good sign for O'Bannon.
Also, as the O'Bannon hearing nears, there are many in-depth stories on Sonny Vaccaro, including this one in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by J. Brady McCollough. Here's an excerpt from One-Man Rebellion:
"Mr. Vaccaro has that Magic Johnson factor, that aura about him," O'Bannon says. "I don't know if you've met Magic Johnson, but when you talk to him and meet him face to face, you feel like you're the one person that he wants to talk to at that moment. Mr. Vaccaro has that same effect. I've always felt like, when I talk to him, I'm the most important person in his life."
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As the decades passed, Vaccaro became obsessed. He couldn't stomach the NCAA's transfer rules, forcing players to sit out for a year after transferring. He railed against the NBA's age limit of 19, which forced players to play one year of college basketball. The NCAA was glad to have the most talented players on campus, even for just a season.
Vaccaro's tipping point came one day when he was watching ESPN Classic and he realized that the NCAA, by licensing the rights of the games to be re-aired on the network, was able to continue making money off the players into eternity. Vaccaro felt that players should be paid residuals anytime their likenesses were used after their careers were over.