The NCAA’s $20 million video game settlement may set a new precedent for the O’Bannon case


Sam Keller (Michael Conroy/AP)

Good news for current and former college athletes whose likenesses were used to create video games: The NCAA reached a settlement to pay players $20 million this week over college-themed basketball and football video games produced by Electronic Arts, the Associated Press reports. This follows a $40 million lawsuit settled just over a week ago by EA in a similar but separate case. This means college athletes — present and former — have now been awarded a total of $60 million for having their likenesses used in EA games.

“I think it sets a precedent in that regard that if you’re going to use a player’s likeness in this regard, that you’re going to have to pay for it,” the athletes’ attorney, Steve Berman, told the AP.

If approved, this latest settlement, which was filed by former Arizona State and Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller, could bode well for another suit filed by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, whose case recently began in a California federal court. O’Bannon and others filed a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA, claiming the association used their images in broadcasts and video games without paying them.

The NCAA’s argument has been that there is no market for college athletes’ likenesses, and there it maintains there’s no earned pool of money from which to pay them. Some are now saying that argument no longer applies when taking into account the latest news. SBNation writes:

“If EA thought that its product would be improved by using the names of real players — and it was willing to pay the players to use their likenesses — that severely hurts the NCAA’s claim that there is no market for players’ likenesses, because it’s logical to assume there is a market for television broadcasts if there is for video games.”

The NCAA is trying to have the video game settlement barred from being introduced as evidence in the O’Bannon case, but according to CBS’s Jon Solomon, it looks like the NCAA won’t be getting its way.

Speaking for both Keller and O’Bannon, attorney Steve Berman told the AP:

“I think they’re going to be pleased that they were the catalyst to being the first (college) athletes to be paid for their performance for the first time in history.”

More than 100,000 athletes could have access to the money, the AP writes.

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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Marissa Payne · June 11