NCAA Football Lawsuit Brings More Legal Trouble for EA Sports

As GamePolitics has reported, Electronic Arts may soon face a lawsuit by retired NFL players who believe their likenesses were unlawfully incorporated into EA’s best-selling Madden game. But former college players now want their slice of EA’s money pie as well.

SF Weekly reports that a one-time college quarterback is now making the same claim as NFL retirees in regard to EA’s popular NCAA Football and NCAA Basketball franchises. Samuel Keller (left), formerly of Arizona State and Nebraska, is the lead plaintiff in the class action suit.

From SF Weekly:

The suit [claims] in its first sentence that it "arises out of the blatant and unlawful use of [NCAA] student likenesses in videogames produced by [EA]… to increase sales and profits." This, the complaint continues, is abetted with a wink-and-nod assist from the NCAA, which "intentionally circumvents the prohibitions on utilizing student athletes’ names in commercial ventures by allowing gamers to upload entire rosters, which include players’ names and other information, directly into the game in a matter of seconds…"

This, the suit alleges, is a symbiotic relationship between the NCAA and EA that leaves the student athletes — who make this whole venture possible — empty-handed.


So it rankled Keller to note that "with rare exception, virtually every real-life Division I football or basketball player in the NCAA has a corresponding player in Electronic Arts’ games with the same jersey number, and virtually identical height, weight, build and home state. In addition Electronic Arts often matches the player’s, skin tone, hair color, and often even a player’s hair style."

DOCUMENT DUMP: Grab a copy of the lawsuit here.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on RedditEmail this to someone


  1. rogerz says:

    Amazing post and everyone has submit their mature views regarding this. Images of flowers, horses and scenic landscapes with the gentle textures of nature provide the inspired themes behind Jabeen Memon’s realistic oil paintings. canvas prints

  2. KarenG says:
    rehab centers 

    I want to take this moment to say that I really love this blog. It has been a good resource of information for me in my research. Thank you so much admin.

  3. KarenG says:

    I was just doing some research on a hawaii personal injury attorneys site and came across this post as well via Google.  I really think that this is a very sensational case that clearly outlines how are legal system can be biased in some incidents. This lawsuit would have not happened in the first place if all the issues were amicably settled before it can escalate to this.

  4. achet says:

    Football is so demanding of these “students-athletes” that they don’t have time to major in anything of any real worth… Criminology and “General Studies” tend to be the most popular.
    pt caderea parului

  5. Kamil says:

    You that’s the thing about the huge organizations that they will preach and speak about ethics and about practicing clean business methods but you take anyone from Microsoft to HP they indulge in creating money for themselves while taking advantage of others and do not want to pay these people.

    I can understand that small businesses wil do this they are struggling business wise more often then not due to a very competitive business environment but large business do such things is shameful.

    EA sports must either pay those people or face sweet chin music i.e. a lawsuit.

    Ohio Lawsuit Loans

  6. richard says:

    Number and name may be, but I think it will be difficult to quarrel with them ( Logo Design ) , and many of the same data and everything. I think the only reason, NCAA, and this will all rights to pictures of hairstyles, design, weight, height, hair color, for ever, if so, then the man This is a Wile

  7. PHX Corp says:

    this is the third time EA was sued over player royalties, whats next retired NBA players Sueing EA and the NBA or Retired NHL players suing the NHL and EA

    Watching JT on GP is just like watching an episode of Jerry springer only as funny as the fights

  8. Shkspr says:

    So I’d assume any player that makes money on this lawsuit is retroactively declared to be a professional and his teams found to have committed violations by playing them, thus resulting in forfeiture of any games played while members of the lawsuit were enrolled at the school and loss of future scholarships for the offending program, right?

    I mean, that’s NCAA rules.  Players who get paid are cheaters.

  9. Freyar says:

    "intentionally circumvents the prohibitions on utilizing student athletes’ names in commercial ventures by allowing gamers to upload entire rosters, which include players’ names and other information, directly into the game in a matter of seconds…"

    (All the following is based on my interpretation of the lawsuit.  Feel free to correct me, but be gentle. It’s late.)

    Am I the only one that sees this lawsuit the same as Marvell and/or DC (I can’t remember specifically) sueing NCSoft for players using existing likenesses? I didn’t agree with that suit, and from the little bit I read here, I don’t agree with this one.


    There is a difference between a player uploading these bits of information and likenesses, and EA specifically providing these bits of information either on-disk, or via official EA content downloads.  I don’t see why this should have any weight. Gamers will always put things they are familiar with in their games if given the tools. This is why we see police upset about actual police vehicles used in GTA games. This is why (this one’s a stretch) we hear about sporn (SFW) in Spore.


    For people who say "I’m glad to see the Madden monopoly shake", keep in mind that having it shake because of screwed up legal interpretations will have major reprecussions down the road. There are things that can come up later down the line that we’ve never thought to consider. If the monopoly should fall, it should fall for a valid reason, and not an excuse like this.


    As far as prohibitions regarding the students’ likenesses used in commercial ventures, let us ask the following: What makes this case a commercial venture? Is money being exchanged between the gamers for providing these likenesses and stats? I really doubt it, unless of course EA is charging on a per-download/update basis, in which case see above.  The game is sold as-is, without the information provided. If we were to compare this to GTA’s Hot Coffee mod (Where’s JT?), the case would be that the modders added the content to the game. The animations, voice-overs, and interface. In the case of this lawsuit, the modders added numbers, names, and body-builds.  Again, the case seems to fall in line with the idea that gamers added it.


    —- There is a limit for both politicians against video games, and video games against politicians.

  10. matthew_m_g says:

    I mean, that’s NCAA rules.  Players who get paid are cheaters.

    Not if they play for the University of Texas, SMU, Texas Tech, or Texas A&M.

    Of course, we won’t go into what that stance cost each of the schools…but it did help kill their conference and SMU’s football program.

  11. GoodRobotUs says:

    I would have assumed that players would have to sign a release form when they join the college team to allow the college to use their image in that manner?

    I think this is more a permission thing than anything else, their likenesses and details were used without permission and were obviously a rip-off of real life college footballers, so EA are trying to tiptoe around their responsibilities by being ‘similar, but not similar enough’, however, as to whether they have crossed the line or not? Well, that’s for the courts to answer really.

  12. TFHDeathUA33 says:

    That is more for monetary reasons.  A college player on average really is only a star at his school for +/- 2 yrs.  Why would I pay $50 for a college jersey with a name on it that I will just have to rebuy in a couple years.  Compare this to Pro Players which in some cases might stay on a team for 10 years.  Besides, should the jersey maker be sued if I go and write the players name on the back of the jersey with a white marker? 

    A store can sell a photo (i.e. likeness) of a player in a game with his name widely displayed but they can’t allow a video game to put a person with similar stats into a video game.  No that would be too far.

  13. Meohfumado says:

    I so called this back when the NFL retired players won their case.  I said, "What is to prevent former college players from collecting on past NCAA Football titles?" 

    Some on this board said it wouldn’t happen…but I told you so!!!


    Granted they’ll probably lose as part of their "you signed away the rights of your likeness so that we can promote the school" BS that every student has to sign in case they take a picture of their classroom and use it in a brocheur.

    But I just like being right…pay me no real mind.  🙂

    "You know what I wish? I wish all the scum of the Earth had one throat and I had my hands about it."

  14. matthew_m_g says:

    That, and if you happen to share the last name of a popular collegiate player, you’re out of luck in odering that name on your jersey to avoid any name right issues at the collegiate level.

    As for Sam Keller, isn’t it already enough that he helped bring about one of the worst collegiate football seasons in Nebraska Cornhusker history?  Now he has to drag the University’s name through the mud on this as well? 

    Oh well…don’t see too many other players jumping on this bandwagon.  Sam was reportedly more or less a primadonna that isn’t doing too well in the NFL, so he’s got to make a quick cash grab somehow IMO…

  15. Joran says:

    The athletes don’t get paid, but the colleges don’t get the rights to their names.  Basically, go into any college team store and try to buy the jersey of your favorite player.  Unlike pro sports, where the last name of the player is on the back of the jersey, for college players, only the number is listed.

  16. GoodRobotUs says:

    Id say this is more along the lines of a Copyright suit than anything else, it’d be like releasing a soft drink called ‘Popsi’ that was written in exactly the same format as the ‘Pepsi’ brand, it’s basically using the likeness of the ‘brand’ without permission from the brands owner.

    Whilst it’s true that, if permission had been asked, the players may not have been able to claim money for it, however, if the case is accurate, EA has played dirty, and the money being claimed is for damages, not services rendered.

  17. zel says:

    The number and name maybe but i think it would be hard to dispute using their likeness and stats and EVERYTHING. I mean, just cause its NCAA and stuff does that mean you give away all rights to the use of your likeness to include hair style, build, weight, height, hair color, forever? If so then man thats a raw deal 😛

    I usually don’t root for the copycat easy payday lawsuits, but I really dislike scummy underhanded BS crap EA pulls to make a buck and cut people out of the loop.


    I am a signature virus, please copy and paste me into your signature to help me propagate.

  18. Cerabret100 says:

    Aren’t college athletes techincally still amature (don’t get paid to play, although lets face it, the bullshit free rides some of them get are basically pay) and thus not meant to be paid, and the rights to their name and stuff given to their respective college?


    I could be completely wrong, but i could have sworn i heard that somewhere.

  19. DarkSaber says:

    Probably just a me-tooist after an easy payday, but I’m just happy to see any possibility of the pillars supporting the mighty Madden monopoly start to wobble.


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

Comments are closed.