EA College Sports Is Back, But Some Schools Are Opting Out Until Name, Image, Likeness Rules Are Created To Compensate Athletes

from the hut-hut-punt dept

Way back in 2013, a class action lawsuit started by ex-UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon resulted ultimately in the NCAA found to have violated antitrust laws. The antitrust bit comes from a waiver the NCAA forces student athletes to sign that removes their ability to be compensated for their names, images, or likeness (NIL). While this restriction has been in place at the NCAA for eons, this case came about due to O'Bannon discovering that he was represented in EA Sports' NCAA Basketball game in a "classic" team loaded into the game.

The knock on effect to all of this was that 2010 was the last year EA Sports offered its college basketball game and 2013, the year the lawsuit came about, was the last year the company made its vaunted NCAA Football game. The reason given by the company was that schools were shying away from those games to avoid further lawsuits. For the next seven years, EA Sports stuck to professional sports.

But now, in 2021, the company has announced that the college football series is back.

EA Sports actually dropped a few Easter eggs pointing to the possibility. In the past two editions of Madden, some college football programs were included as part of the "Face of the Franchise" story mode of the game. EA Sports vice president and general manager Daryl Holt told ESPN that while it wasn't a conscious decision to do that as a test run for the return of a college football game, there was positive feedback and returns, particularly in those college markets.

"That was another just check mark to go -- we know [fans] are itching for it and we know we can develop and deliver a great college football experience," Holt said. "So why are we waiting?"

So, what changed? Apparently not much beyond the Collegiate Licensing Community and its members once again being willing to license school names, stadiums, and imagery to EA Sports. Why there is this sudden change of heart isn't entirely clear at the time of this writing, but it is worth noting that there is a lot of talk and pressure on the NCAA to create new NIL rules so that athletes can get some compensation for their likenesses.

Still, with those NIL rules still theoretical as of now, not all schools are opting in. Notre Dame had already indicated that they were pulling out of the game, citing the lack of NIL rules being established. And now Northwestern University has done likewise.

According to a report from Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Northwestern football team is opting out of the upcoming college football video game from EA Sports. The school wants NIL rules to be created and finalized before players can take part in the highly-anticipated video game. Northwestern is the second known school to opt-out of the game with Notre Dame being the first. It was also reported by Northwestern made the decision in January before EA announced college football is coming back.

So, what does this all mean? Well, it's a bit of a risky venture for EA Sports to take, given that any NCAA Football title as of now would have to be given an "incomplete" grade. The Big 10 without Northwestern? College football without Notre Dame? And what if more schools start getting pressure from their students and athletes and start to go down the same path?

What this ultimately highlights is that the NCAA cartel should get its shit together and work out an NIL compensation arrangement with its athletes before once again attempting to dunk its licensing cookie into video games to try to enrich itself. That this is still an unsettled topic of conversation is baffling.

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Filed Under: college sports, ea sports, ed o'bannon, likeness rights, video games
Companies: ea, ncaa


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  1. icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 6 Mar 2021 @ 3:40am

    NIL

    Well there are separate topics here.

    NIL can be used because that's how it works. Reporting news or sports stats does not require a license. Factual reporting or replays are free of license no matter how much NCAA feels about it.

    Then there's the part where the NCAA (for one) wants to collect these fees -- even though not deserving them -- and hold 3rd party vendors like EA required to pay them.

    And finally there's that part where NCAA (for one) doesn't want to compensate the players, so first, they collect a fee they shouldn't be entitled to.... secondly... don't compensate the players... and third... prevent EA (e.g.) from being able to profit from it.

    I have my own opinions, and I'm not a lawyer, so with that in mind

    • players are public performers and their images and stats are public
    • one can include them in a game without paying anyone anything
    • unrelatedly they SHOULD be allowed to collect for being NCAA stars

    E

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    WarioBarker (profile), 6 Mar 2021 @ 8:45am

    it's a bit of a risky venture for EA Sports to take, given that any NCAA Football title as of now would have to be given an "incomplete" grade. The Big 10 without Northwestern? College football without Notre Dame?

    It's EA. I can absolutely see them releasing a college football game that's missing teams, pinky promising that the absent teams will be added as DLC, and then releasing Ultimate Team packs so you'll have to unlock the missing schools' teams yourself (but the chances of getting any individual player from said teams is 0.001%).

    And what if more schools start getting pressure from their students and athletes and start to go down the same path?

    Less work for EA, then!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Mar 2021 @ 6:59pm

    Re:

    Sad but true.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Great_Scott (profile), 6 Mar 2021 @ 7:57pm

    Re: NIL

    I really don't understand any of this.

    Why are there licenses and fees of any kind at all?

    Isn't the entire point of the NCAA that sportsmanship and education are above all? That's why the players (students) don't get paid, right? The universities involved don't make much either - it goes towards maintaining their sports departments.

    So there shouldn't be any money involved in the first place to be concerned about.

    After all, if any of this was in any way big money, the players should be getting some of it...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Mar 2021 @ 9:09pm

    Re: Re: NIL

    Why are there licenses and fees of any kind at all?

    Because it's a class of information with great profit potential. Which makes it ripe for IP law to exploit to the fullest extent possible. What makes you think that people in the US wouldn't try to profit off of it???

    Isn't the entire point of the NCAA that sportsmanship and education are above all? That's why the players (students) don't get paid, right? The universities involved don't make much either - it goes towards maintaining their sports departments.

    Oh, it goes to maintaining sports departments alright. Complete with large outdoor fountains and entire new "sports" offices that just so happen to be used by university administration....

    Sports = US Education There is no separation of the two. (After all, it's not like most people in the US actually care about the pursuit of knowledge in the first place...)

    After all, if any of this was in any way big money, the players should be getting some of it...

    Guess again. The whole point of being a student athlete in the US is having the opportunity to play a game while making other people ludicrous amounts of money. The players? They got "fame" and a "paid for" education. (Most of which won't mean or amount to much by the time their glory days of "move ball from point A to point B" are over. Hence the has-beens.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 7 Mar 2021 @ 12:18am

    Not sure EA is the problem...

    I think the NCAA and their "conferences" (thing Big-10 or Pac-12 etc.) are the real problem. The "students" aren't there to study anything. They go to these institutions to be "athletes".

    How to fix:

    • if you're a "student" then you must maintain decent grades without some trainer doing your work. I think B- or better, but it could be higher or lower
    • If you sign up for a 4 year degree (BS, BA, etc.) you have to stay at that same school and can't "go to the national league".
    • NIL is bull. If you're playing public sports you don't have "magic" rights to your name, image, or likeness. That's not a thing, isn't codified in 17USC as a thing, and never has been.

    WHAT DOES EA OWE YOU? Nothing.
    WHAT DOES THE NCAA OWE YOU -- A lot, because they do make billions of dollars selling your NIL.
    How is this different? Players have a contract with NCAA affiliated schools and in so doing have an interest in their financial future. EA is no more than a game company, which in lots of ways is like a news company. If Reuters or AFP or ABC or NPR want to report on a player's progress (or even show video) they owe nobody anything.

    ESPN game highlights? Free.
    Sport clips? Free.

    Keep that in mind next time it's "blame EA" time. It's not.

    E

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2021 @ 3:25am

    So Bart Smith doesn't wanna take part?

    lets change his eye color by 2 grades and call him Bort Smyth.....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2021 @ 6:39pm

    Re: Re: NIL

    https://salaryguide.dbknews.com/

    Seven of the top ten highest paid faculty members at the University of Maryland are in the Intercollegiate Athletics department. If the university is devoting this much to salary, I find it hard to believe that it isn't making serious money for itself from sports.

    if any of this was in any way big money, the players should be getting some of it...

    Clearly it is big money... and the players should be getting some of it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2021 @ 6:47pm

    Re: Not sure EA is the problem...

    EA is no more than a game company, which in lots of ways is like a news company. If Reuters or AFP or ABC or NPR want to report on a player's progress (or even show video) they owe nobody anything.

    Would it be OK if ABC made an entertainment product (such as a TV show) using CGI models of a celebrity, without that celebrity's permission?

    If not, then why would it be OK for EA to make an entertainment product (such as a game) using CGI models of a sports player, without that player's permission?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 7 Mar 2021 @ 7:26pm

    Re: Re: Not sure EA is the problem...

    I do appreciate you taking all the context and quoting one line, but I'll be your Huckleberry.

    Would it be OK if ABC made an entertainment product...
    Yes. Perhaps you've watched ABC. If not, "Love Boat".

    ...why would it be OK for EA to make an entertainment product...
    That's what they do.

    ... without the player's permission?
    The player's permission is not required. Now go back, and read my whole note where I mentioned that it's legal to report about news and statistics and players without paying them.

    Do I personally think NCAA athletes should be paid? I already said that. Is it legally required - no.

    Is the player's permission required - also no.

    Don't confuse ethics, justice, and the law. They are three very different things.

    EA is not acting unlawfully here. Sadly neither is the NCAA. Ideally, well I covered that above and you couldn't be bothered to quote it so I'm guessing you didn't read or understand it. I'll summarize for dummies:
    NCAA should compensate athletes IN RETURN FOR WHICH athletes should get a degree and not leave for pro sports after a year.

    None of this bears on EA. Just like it doesn't bear on ABC, BBC, NPR, or your momma talking smack about that guy on the team that beat up the other guy.

    E

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    TKnarr (profile), 7 Mar 2021 @ 10:04pm

    Re: NIL

    Only one thing: the EA game doesn't fall under any of the cases where you can use someone's trademark (which is what NIL would be considered) without permission. EA isn't reporting on what that player actually did, or reporting factual information about them, nor are they leaving the representation of the player unidentifiable. They're creating something new that the player never participated in featuring that player and distributing that, for which they need a license to use that player's NIL. Note that whether the player can be paid for the use of their NIL is irrelevant to the need for a license.

    The question would be, rather, does that waiver grant the NCAA the right to re-license players' NIL to other companies, and whether it did so for EA. I don't know the exact wording of the waiver, so I can't speak to that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2021 @ 11:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Not sure EA is the problem...

    Would it be OK if ABC made an entertainment product...
    Yes. Perhaps you've watched ABC. If not, "Love Boat".

    And if "Love Boat" was using a CGI replica of Gavin McLeod in 1977, you might actually be addressing my point. (and in which case, ABC has seriously been underusing that tech!)

    ...why would it be OK for EA to make an entertainment product...
    That's what they do.

    Yes, they make entertainment products, which (as far as I'm aware) need to obtain permission to use NIL. Did they? Maybe they did. I don't know the terms of the contract that the players sign with the NCAA - maybe the players did sign away their NIL rights and EA's contract with the NCAA means they did nothing illegal, or at least that they were acting in good faith because they believed things were properly licensed. However, the O'Bannon lawsuit suggests that even if a license was signed, it might not be as valid as NCAA/EA thinks.

    it's legal to report about news and statistics and players without paying them.

    And if EA was reporting about news and statistics and players, this might be relevant. But it isn't, because EA isn't reporting anything; They're making a game. That's why the proper comparison is CGI people in NCAA Football 2020 vs. The Good Doctor (because let's be current and avoid any nonsense about CGI not being around when Love Boat was on) and not player stats in NCAA Football 2020 vs. 20/20.

    NCAA should compensate athletes IN RETURN FOR WHICH athletes should get a degree and not leave for pro sports after a year.

    I don't think you're going far enough. NCAA/Colleges should fairly compensate athletes for playing in NCAA/College games. Period.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    sayar (profile), 8 Mar 2021 @ 12:33pm

    mahakal

    Get unlimited Gujarati ringtones https://www.gujaratiringtonedownloadmp3.online

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    sayar (profile), 8 Mar 2021 @ 12:35pm

    Mahakal

    Ultimate collection of Mahadev-ringtones.
    www.mahadevringtonedownload.online

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    sayar (profile), 8 Mar 2021 @ 12:36pm

    newsfox

    Newsfox - the ultimate source of news.
    www.newsfox.in

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Tanner Andrews (profile), 11 Mar 2021 @ 10:25pm

    Re: Not sure EA is the problem...

    If Reuters or AFP or ABC or NPR want to report on a player's progress (or even show video) they owe nobody anything

    That is news reporting. If I stick my head into a City Commission meeting, you can take pictures, quote me, even opine about the views I express.

    On the other hand, making a fictional movie or game about me, using my likeness as part of the reason to watch or buy, then you probably owe something. Good-looking people even charge for the privilege of taking and publishing pictures of them, giving what is called a ``model release'' in return for money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 12 Mar 2021 @ 2:48am

    Re: Re: Not sure EA is the problem...

    ... then you probably owe something...

    No, nobody owes you anything, not even "probably." You "probably" should either read the law or consult a lawyer prior to opining on something.

    Good-looking people even charge for the privilege of taking and publishing pictures of them... model release...

    Yes, if you sit for a photo shoot, put on the clothing/accessories for the shoot, take a few hours to do it FOR THE SHOOT you get paid for it. Depending on how famous you are the revenues go from $50/hr to $5000/day with residuals.

    However, when you're photographed without all that -- think TMZ.COM, ABC, BBC, RT, AFP, etc -- nobody pays you anything.

    So either go to law school... consult a lawyer... or stop spreading BS about this stuff. NIL is a myth that athletic organizations are trying to spread. If you don't work for them, don't pretend this is a real thing. It never was, and unless Congress passes laws modifying current code it never will be.

    Note: I am not a lawyer. I just know how to read. Try doing that.

    E

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    Tanner Andrews (profile), 21 Mar 2021 @ 12:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Not sure EA is the problem...

    I just know how to read. Try doing that.

    Congratulations on learning how to read. Next step is applying that education: overview, Using Name or Likeness

    Note: I am not a lawyer.

    Yeah, it shows. But even being one might not help. The actual implementation of name-and-likeness will vary from state to state and there is no ready way to keep them all straight. But at least using your vaunted ability to read will give you a start.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 21 Mar 2021 @ 1:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Not sure EA is the problem...

    I know, you think "lawyer" is about "state to state".

    They'll teach you about venue in your 1L.

    E

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    Tanner Andrews (profile), 11 Apr 2021 @ 11:05am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not sure EA is the problem...

    Right, that is where you probably learn about the Erie [Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64] doctrine. You remember, how Federal courts choose the different states' laws that are to apply in a case.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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