NCAA Parts Ways with Video Game Maker Electronic Arts Amidst Lawsuit

Originally posted 2018-11-19 11:21:34

sportsBy Caroline Lau |

What started out as a group of ex-college athletes looking to win monetary compensation from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which has been profiting from sports video games and media broadcasts using athletes’ names, images and likenesses in their production, may soon culminate in a class action lawsuit that would change the game of college sports indelibly. Initiated by the legal action of former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, The suit has been ongoing for the last 4 years, and this year on June 20, federal judge Claudia Wilken of Oakland, California heard the arguments put forth for and against the class action motion. News of Wilken’s decision to certify the plaintiffs as a class is impending.

Meanwhile, the NCAA announced that it would not renew its contract with major game-maker Electronic Arts (EA), also a defendant in the lawsuit, on Wednesday, July 17. The NCAA noted that the choice not to renew the contract does not undermine its legal position, stating it is “confident” about the use of its trademarks in video games and that it “has never licensed the use of current student-athlete names, images, or likenesses to the EA.” The association attributed the cessation of its contract with EA to the “current business climate” and litigation costs.

Further emphasizing the NCAA’s stance and perhaps to distance it from the former athletes’ claims, a spokeswoman for the association said that the contract and the association’s recent decision involved only the NCAA logo and name, asserting that student-athletes were “never a part of this relationship.” The NCAA also stated that universities have trademark licensing agreements with EA, many through the Collegiate Licensing Company (also a defendant), independent of the NCAA’s affiliation. O’Bannon’s legal team reacted with the belief that the NCAA’s move was calculated to eschew sharing any revenue from the video games with the athletes.

EA has made public assurances that NCAA’s decision will not affect its production of video games, and that it just means NCAA trademarks will no longer appear. While the gaming industry may remain untouched by the lawsuit, the world of college athletics could see significant change. If the case goes through as a class action suit that includes the former college-athletes as well as current players, then college-athletes as a group could likely obtain substantial compensation in the future, comparable to paid professionals. The worth of their names and likenesses, already appropriated for commercial products, would be monetized, and protectable.


The New York Times. July 17, 2013. “As Legal Battle Continues, N.C.A.A. Ends Tie With Electronic Arts.” Retrieved on July 18, 2013 from

Yahoo. June 21, 2013. “As O’Bannon lawsuit moves forward, there’s a new power player in college sports.” Retrieve on July 18, 2013 from

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