According to its website, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was founded “to protect student-athletes.” Recently, however, six college football players became the first current athletes to join a lawsuit against the NCAA for its unauthorized use and profit of athletes’ identities in video games. The lawsuit, originally started by a group of former college athletes, alleges that the NCAA allowed video game manufacturer Electronic Arts (EA), commonly known as EA Sports, to exploit the names and traits of college athletes for use in video games in exchange for huge sums of money, none of which went to the athlete.
According to the amended complaint filed by the football players, during the original 2007 licensing negotiations, EA offered to create a ‘players’ fund’ in exchange for using an athlete’s real name, image and likeness on video games. The NCAA, however, countered that the money earmarked for a students’ fund should bypass the athletes and go directly to their organization.
The original lawsuit alleged more broadly that the NCAA was improperly profiting from the use of athletes’ names and identities in products and media, and by requiring athletes to relinquish in perpetuity all property rights they might have toward their name and image as a college athlete.
The NCAA has historically placed restrictions on college athletes preventing them to profit from their name and image in ways including TV contracts, rebroadcasts of games, and video games. On the contrary, this lawsuit urges that funds generated by the licensing and sale of an athlete’s name and image be held in trust until the end of their college playing career.
U.S. District Court Judge Wilken presiding over the case ruled earlier this July that this lawsuit can be amended to add new plaintiffs who are current players. If Judge Wilken certifies this suit as a class action, it will open the door to potentially thousands of current and former athletes whose identities have been exploited by the NCAA.
If you or someone you know is a college athlete whose name or image has been exploited by the NCAA, contact the attorneys at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling 713-396-3964 or 800-594-4884.