Now The NCAA is Suing EA

Posted November 21st, 2013 at 12:45 pm


Electronic Arts’ legal troubles relating to the alleged use of player likenesses in college football and basketball video games did not come to an end with the settlement in the Ed O’Bannon led lawsuit. The NCAA is now challenging the company, along with the CLC, regarding the $40 million settlement they reached in late September. 

The crux of the matter is that the NCAA believes the two parties breached contractual obligations in not maintaining sufficient liability insurance, that EA should still have to cover any future judgments against the NCAA related to video games, that the CLC did not adequately supervise the production of the video games, and that the two should further be responsible for the NCAA’s related legal fees.

They also claim that EA expressly agreed not to include student athlete names and likenesses in the football and basketball video games – even though evidence in the case shows the NCAA worked with EA closely on the matter, were aware of how likenesses were being represented, and even were on the brink of allowing player names in the games. The NCAA seeks to have approval of the settlement that EA and the CLC reached with the plaintiffs blocked.

Earlier/Summary Below

The player likeness lawsuit against the NCAA, CLC, and Electronic Arts is the culmination of two high profile filings that were combined as led by Sam Keller and Ed O’Bannon (and O’Bannon now heads it up). It alleges improper use of player likeness through various forms of merchandise and media including video games in which the parties in question conspired to avoid paying players for their rights. Some interesting details and claims regarding the case at hand were revealed when EA was reentered as a defendant after initially being dismissed.

EA originally won a previous case regarding player likeness with the courts ruling video games are artistic works rather than commercial speech and therefore protected by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court in 2011 established forms of media, producing expressive works of art, are not subject to judgments based on incorporating someone’s name or likeness. That dismissed case however, involving Ryan Hart, has resurfaced after an appeals court reversed a decision based on that argument.

Recent uncovered emails have shown that NCAA representatives were well aware that players in games were based off real-life players. At one point the NCAA and EA had nearly reached an agreement to have actual player names included in the products. The EA Locker / Roster Share feature was a fallback option. With momentum clearly on the plantiffs’ side NCAA reps have begun to publicly express concern over the future of collegiate sports. A former EA Sports producer admitted players in NCAA games were based off real athletes.

The discovery of Tim Tebow’s name being in NCAA Football 10 could throw another wrench into EA’s series of arguments. Depositions from former Alabama wide receiver Tyrone Prothro and UConn basketball guard Tate George support the defendant’s reasoning for denying class action certification. The class action hearing resulted in the judge heavily questioning the legitimacy of a potential class and insisting a current athlete be involved. The judge required current athletes be added as plaintiffs for that party to have representation if the case is certified as class action. Six current college football players were added as plaintiffs in mid-July.

EA is now arguing to be dismissed as a defendant in the suit. A major defense for the company however was recently struck down by an appeals court.

This consolidated case in California if certified as class action would go to trial – barring a settlement – and ultimately be the determining factor of how the NCAA proceeds in the future handling broadcasting rights, merchandising, and video games. Should a negative result come down, which one analyst has pegged as being a potential loss of $1 billion for EA, it would likely not just end the NCAA Football series but also with it any realistic possibility of college sports games being made in the future. The trial now is slated to begin June 9, 2014. Appeals following a decision could extend the fight through 2020.

[RESOLUTION] EA and the CLC have settled the lawsuit. EA Sports will no longer produce a college football game. Getting out of the lawsuit only cost EA and CLC $40 million.

  • Sicilian Joe

    Seriously NCAA, you’re such a joke. I believe all the college games actually ADDED to the popularity of the sport—they didn’t take away from it. Yes, EA made a fortune but the NCAA definitely profited as well.
    It’s a lot like fantasy football I think…imagine if the NFL said real names and teams couldn’t be used. Fantasy football has been so huge for the NFL—and I think the NCAA is very short sighted in their view of this matter.

    Bunch of money hungry crooks those NCAA dudes.

  • Iown You

    Damn. I bet now EA has to be looking back at the shenanigan they pulled and asking themselves “was this all really worth it?”


    • derrick ennis

      i understand where you are coming from but i doubt the leagues that had exclusive deals like the mlb and nfl aould be willing to let those slip away easily they make way to much money on exclusive deals to stop using them now

      • Iown You

        It won’t matter if EA can’t afford to spend on it anymore. We all know about the public releases concerning the NFL having to cut EA breaks on fees just to keep the deal in force.

        This exclusive both saved Madden as a franchise and destroyed Madden as an evolving product at the same time, while also destroying the once most stable sector of sports gaming and reduced it down to a single product on consoles.

        As I’ve said before to the idea that the NFL dropping the exclusive would mean less money, I say the NFL can easily structure multiple deals in a way that could meet or exceed whatever they are getting right now from EA. If the license came open tomorrow there would be many suitors willing to pay top dollar to get a piece of the NFL pie.

        The NFL is simply lazy and really doesn’t want to deal with multiple companies anymore and that would be the only real roadblock. But to reiterate, if EA is not in a position to spend on it anymore, then the NFL will either have to be open to everyone again (this is what we need), or seek out a new exclusive partner (God forbid that happens!!!)

  • cbtaylo

    LOL what a mess!

  • jr

    Just throw in the towel EA. Can’t release a game changer and can’t win a lawsuit.

  • Brian

    LOL… That is all.

  • jr

    Oregon and Maryland will keep them going lol

    • Electradivine

      Hopefully that gets ea to put out a playoff dlc

      • jr

        They should patch it into the game. I won’t pay for that lol

  • JackTrippa

    It’s good for EA sports. They have screwed over everyone for so long and now it’s all coming back to bite them in the butt. I hope the NCAA sue the hell out of that company almost to the point to where they will have to file for bankruptcy.

    • Mark Britten

      I can;t see it going that far, but you never know I guess.

  • clubsteve

    what a way to end the series……good luck, EA.

  • Tazdevil20

    bahahaha – I can’t deny the fact that I am getting enjoyment out of this. You reap what you sew. This is all coming back to bite them in the ass. This is EXACTLY what short term, greedy thinking does to companies down the road. The executives who royally fucked this company are off counting their riches leaving it up to the rest of the slobs to clean up the mess. This NFL exclusive deal for EA could not have been worth this at all.


    • Mark Britten

      “Down with exclusives” is one thing, but the fact is that if EA cancelled Madden sometime this year there’s not likely to be anyone willing to take over making a football game. 2k Sports would obviously be everyone’s dream, but I doubt the 2k8 team even still exists, and even if they could do it I’m not sure they’re interested at this point. The other idea would be Sony (a-la MLB: The Show) but obviously that would be PS4 exclusive.

      • Just Blaze!

        You know how much money a NFL game brings in? I’m pretty sure a developer will find the resources to make it happen.

  • eyeamsam206

    Looks like trouble for EA. Sucks we wont have anymore college games

  • Kaz McFly

    Burn baby Burn!

  • Keith.

    Just read that the attorney who’s representing the NCAA in this case against EA and the CLC is a former Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court.

    Can’t wait to hear how Andrew Wilson explains this to the shareholders. “Remember that $40 million settlement I told you about last month. Well, about that….” LOL

  • johnrhee

    Hopefully, Sony and Microsoft takes over NCAA (college) football from EA Sports in order to keep the video game around. The maker of NFL Fever (Microsoft) & MLB the Show series (Sony) both should consider doing college football similar to The Show, while 2K Sports can concentrate bring back college basketball using generic roster. It will help the sales on both of those games for sure, esp. should Madden NFL also leave EA Sports to both Sony (SCEA) & Microsoft or 2K Sports.