Report: Emails Reveal EA Used Real NCAA Athletes’ Names When Developing Games

According to information gleaned from court documents obtained by ESPN, EA Sports used the real names of NCAA college athletes during the development of its now-dead college basketball video game franchise. The information came from emails that are being used as part of an antitrust lawsuit filed against the NCAA, Electronic Arts, and the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) by former NCAA college athletes.

Under the terms of EA's licensing agreement with the CLC, the company could not use the real names of athletes in its games. The stipulation is also a rule in the NCAA's bylaws on student-athletes. According to an email from a CLC representative (July 2007), EA's builds of NCAA March Madness 08 featured players' real names. They were used so "[the game] will calculate the correct stats." An EA spokeswoman went on to assure the CLC that the names would be removed from the game before it was released.

A senior executive was concerned when he later forwarded the message to other CLC executives saying that, "this is exactly the type of thing that could submarine the game if it got into the media."

Or a court case.

Another email exchange between EA and the CLC that the NCAA was exploring the possibility of allowing the publisher to use players' real names in their video games.

A CLC manager wrote the following in 2007:

"[The NCAA] now [finally] sees EA as an important tool to allow them to reach young people with the values associated with intercollegiate athletics.

NCAA leaders later held a meeting to discuss the possibility of changing the policy. An unnamed CLC officer said that it would be a big win for EA and NCAA if they had the ability to use "the names of players on jerseys within the game." The proposal never got approval.

Even so, EA included a feature in NCAA Football 08 called "EA Locker" that allowed players to edit the names of players and then upload the rosters to EA servers for other users to download.

The lawsuit alleges that all three organizations conspired to make sure student-athletes were not compensated for the use of their names, images, and likenesses — while they raked in billions of dollars. The plaintiffs include former college star Ed O'Bannon and NBA legends Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell. The case is scheduled to go to trial in 2014, contingent upon it being certified by the court as a class action.

Source: Kotaku by way of Polygon


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