Court Documents Reveal EA Was Keen to Use Athletes’ Names and Likenesses in its NCAA Video Games

Electronic Arts Sports and the Collegiate Licensing Co. sought to use the names and likenesses of college athletes in its video games, according to an NCAA document unsealed in federal court on Wednesday (as detailed in this LA Times report).

The information comes from a report that was part of a treasure trove of undisclosed internal information that U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ordered to be made fully or partially public in the ongoing antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA fronted by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon. The case is scheduled for trial in June. EA and the CLC agreed to pay $40 million to settle the lawsuit in September, which prompted the NCAA to sue both companies.

The information about EA's willingness to use players' likenesses and real-names in its games comes from NCAA emails and a four-page summary of a January 2007 meeting between an NCAA study group and several corporate sponsors.

"EA requests the ability to represent student-athletes in the games just as they are shown in TV broadcasts," the document said. "This means putting student-athlete names on rosters and on jerseys in the game, and secondarily using facial likenesses."

In return EA Sports offered to put NCAA requested into games "like academic related features, APR, NCAA values, etc."

CLC, which handles trademarks for around 200 bowls, conferences and schools, said that "Using the rosters in the games, and maybe the names of student-athletes on jerseys in the game would be worthwhile."

The report shows how some of the companies in attendance at this 2007 meeting wanted to link current college athletes with their products. Those requests ranged from using current athletes to promote broadcasts to using them in advertising.

Then-NCAA president Myles Brand seemed to wrestle with the ideas presented at the meeting.

"We cannot exploit individual student-athletes," Brand said according to the summary, "but it is not clear what exploitation is … but we don't want to have a student-athlete holding a phone or a bag of chips."

Source: LA Times

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