EA Sports Settles, Won’t Make Another NCAA Football Game
It was announced Thursday that not only will EA Sports cease the creation of a college football video game starting next season, but that a court settlement with former — and possibly current — NCAA players has been reached due to using their "likeness" over the years — and the money is likely well into the millions.
Shortly after Electronic Arts announced it would stop producing a college football game beginning next year, the video game company — together with Collegiate Licensing Company, which holds the licensing rights to the trademarks of the majority of colleges and universities — filed papers to the U.S. District Court in Northern California that it had settled its case brought by former players.
Although the video games did not use their names, the former college athletes alleged EA Sports used the same jersey numbers, heights, weights, skin tones, hair colors and home states in the in-game bios, not only without their permission, but without compensation.
Steve Berman, managing partner of the law firm Hagens Berman, who served as co-lead counsel in the class-action lawsuit brought by the players, acknowledged to ESPN.com that a settlement had been reached, although the specific terms will remain confidential. Berman said negotiations started in earnest the past few weeks on the heels of an appellate court affirming in July a U.S. District Court decision that EA could not use a First Amendment defense of free speech.
After the sides met with a mediator, they put the finishing touches on a settlement, which Berman says will include between 200,000 and 300,000 former college football players whose likenesses were used in the game.
Berman would say only that the settlement would provide the ex-players with "something substantive." He said a list of players with their current addresses will be compiled and that he hopes, once the court approves the settlement and the money is paid out, the players can get checks sent to their current residences instead of having to claim the money…
…For its part, EA Sports — which will not admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlement agreement — said in a statement Thursday that "we follow rules that are set by the NCAA — but those rules are being challenged by some student-athletes."
The settlement comes just five days after the most visible protest by college football players, who are seeking to improve their rights. Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee, Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter and several others wrote "APU" — All Players United — on their game-day gear Saturday. It was done to protest the NCAA's treatment of athletes on issues ranging from concussions to compensation.
One lawyer involved in the case suggested Thursday's settlement means current players now will be entitled to compensation, too.
It's a shame there won't be any more college football on consoles. Being an Alabama alum — where Madden might as well be a foreign word — I know the frat daddies across the south are devastated. In my opinion this will only make the Madden franchise more popular. Then again, it wouldn't surprise me if NCAA '14 is still being played in dorm rooms across Dixie in 2030.
Are we in a money hungry, entitled-driven society? Or do the "amateur" players really deserve compensation for their "likeness?" It's a question that is only at the genesis of being tackled.