EA Sports Dismissed From Lawsuit Filed By Former College Athletes
Back in May, EA Sports was dismissed from an antitrust lawsuit filed by former college basketball player Ed O’Bannon. The case concerns the commercial rights of student athletes, used by schools and video game makers such as EA to generate revenue through jersey and game sales. Another lawsuit filed by former college quarterback Sam Keller has also alleged that schools unfairly use the players’ commercial rights and do not adequately compensate the athletes for this use.
Satirized in a recent episode of South Park, college athletics is a big business. Money is being made not only through donations, but also through ticket sales, licensing revenue and even media ventures. And yet the student athletes behind this revenue are prohibited from taking a share of this pile of money.
This article is not about the broader issue of student athlete compensation but instead about whether companies such as EA Sports should be able to continue to make college sports video games. As anyone who has played a college sports video game can attest, it may say “QB #10” as quarterback for the Texas Longhorns but his stats/attributes are eerily similar to Vince Young. EA Sports does this so as not to directly use the likeness of current amateur collegiate athletes, but it comes awfully close. Individuals, whether or not they are college athletes should have a say in how their image is used and that is at the heart of Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit.
The Judge dismissed the lawsuit against EA Sports because EA did not conspire with the NCAA to deny players compensation for their likeness in video games. However, the NCAA forbids student athletes from receiving any compensation while they are playing sports. So although an athlete could theoretically receive compensation from EA, they would immediately lose their ability to continue to play college sports. Furthermore, EA would probably not keep that player in the video game any longer if they are not a current player for the school. While EA may be technically in the right, it is certainly exploiting NCAA prohibitions on athlete compensation and would not be making as much profit on these games if they had to license the likeness of college athletes like they have to do for their other sports games.