EA Hid Identities of Retired Players in Madden, Lawsuit Document Says

Although Electronic Arts isn’t a defendant in Parrish, Adderley et al vs NFL Players, Inc., the megabucks generated by its Madden NFL series are at the center of the legal dispute.

The case, which will go to trial next month in San Francisco, alleges that the National Football League Players Association and its marketing wing, Players, Inc., prevented retired players from earning their fair share of licensing revenue. Money generated by EA’s enormously popular Madden NFL series is the primary bone of contention.

According to former Buffalo Bills safety Jeff Nixon, newly-uncovered documents in the suit reveal that EA Sports obscured identifying information of retired players to skirt licensing payments. Nixon writes:

The documents… make it is crystal clear that the NFLPA conspired with EA to “scramble” the images of retired players in their Madden NFL Video Games…


The Class Action lawyers have more than a smoking gun to prove this; they have the person shooting the gun in the form of a letter fired off by former Players Inc. Vice President of Multimedia LaShun Lawson, to Madden NFL Game producer Jeremy Strauser that was cc’d to Doug Allen, then President of Players Inc. In the letter LaShun says:


“For all retired players that are not listed… their identity must be altered so that it cannot be recognized. Regarding paragraph 2 of the License Agreement between Electronic Arts and Players Inc, a player’s identity is defined as his name, likeness (including without limitation, number), picture, photograph, voice, facsimile signature and/or biographical information. Hence, any and all players not listed… cannot be represented in Madden 2002 with the number that player actually wore, and must be scrambled."


In the 2007 version of Madden NFL alone, more than 600 retired players… had their images scrambled. They are not identified in the game by their names and numbers, but the game lists their exact weight, height, years in the league, and position they played…


When a substantial competitor to EA [Take-Two] began to emerge for use of retired players, EA and Defendants rushed to enter into a contract locking up the most valuable retired players’ rights in exchange for payments that were admittedly below market. PI’s Senior Vice-President, Clay Walker, admitted as much in the following email:


“Take Two [the EA competitor] went after retired players to create an “NFL” style video game after we gave the exclusive to EA. I was able to forge this deal with [the Pro Football Hall of Fame] that provides them with $400K per year (which is significantly below market rate) in exchange for the HOF player rights. EA owes me a huge favor because that threat was enough to persuade Take Two to back off its plans, leaving EA as the only professional football videogame manufacturer out there.”

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  1. 0
    shamrock says:

    I’m surprised that there aren’t more comments supporting this case. It’s lack of respect. It’s lame! Maybe the players today make a lot of money, but that wasn’t always the case. If you are the name or star, you deserve credit and cash. I’ve been through something similar and when you don’t get credit, it’s a bad feeling. Throw money into the equation and it stings a lot worse.

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  2. 0
    Bigman-K says:

    Agreed Wholeheartedly. These player’s played for pittance compared to what the new player’s make today. Give them their due.

    "No law means no law" – Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black on the First Amendment

  3. 0
    konrad_arflane says:

    Not to mention that not all players are paid all that much, even today. A rookie free agent who makes the team for a season or two before someone better comes along isn’t exactly set for life, even if he’s paid well enough (by ordinary-people standards) for the time he plays.

  4. 0
    konrad_arflane says:

    Funny thing is, Take-Two’s NFL 2K5 did much the same thing, back in the day. It included a number of classic scenarios like "The Drive" and "The Catch"- in these, any player who was still active (and thus included on the then-current rosters anyway) was named properly, while those players who had since retired were called "Broncos QB" or "Giants RB" or whatever their team and position were. I’m not even sure they scrambled their numbers. This led to to rather amusing situation of having a 49ers squad consisting entirely of generic names except for one receiver – Jerry Rice.

  5. 0
    Keleron says:

    This is a tough one for EA. They are caught between a rock and a hard place. In this case everything seems to be the NFL demanding EA do as it asks, and since the NFL controls the license they control the way the deal is handled. I can’t imagine EA is happy about these players not getting their fair share. Yes they get more money if they don’t have to pay these players, but right now EA needs good PR more than they need money. (Though give the economy another week and that might not be true anymore.)

  6. 0
    Krono says:

    Considering that likeness here is defined as including "…and/or biographical information." and according to the suit Madden uses "their exact weight, height, years in the league, and position they played…"

    I’d say that yes EA’s efforts at "obscuring" them was insufficent as it used their biographical information.


  7. 0
    Erasmus Darwin says:

    I’m not seeing the scandal here.

    EA only has to pay if they use a player’s likeness.  EA didn’t want to pay for certain players’ likenesses, so they didn’t use them.  Was EA under an obligation to include all the players?  Was EA’s efforts at obscuring them insufficient?  If the answer to both questions is no, this seems like a non-issue.

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