Former NCAA players have settled a portion of their claims under terms that will pay college football and basketball players dating to 2003 for the use of their likenesses in NCAA-branded videogames.
The payouts may go to more than 100,000 athletes, including some current players, who were either on college rosters or had their images used in videogames made by Electronic Arts featuring college teams. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say it would be the first time college athletes will be paid for the commercial use of their images.
Depending on how many athletes file claims, the payments could range from as little as $48 for each year an athlete was on a roster to $951 for each year the image of an athlete was used in a videogame. The settlement is with Electronic Arts and Collegiate Licensing Co., which licenses and markets college sports, and does not include the NCAA. The case against the NCAA is scheduled for trial soon.
Plaintiffs in the case, which dates to 2009, contend the NCAA conspired with Electronic Arts and Collegiate Licensing Co. to illegally use their images in videogames.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken still must approve the proposed settlement, which came on the eve of a major antitrust trial against the NCAA that could reshape the way college sports operate. That case, featuring former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon and others as lead plaintiffs, went to trial June 9 in Oakland, Calif. Judge Claudia Wilken has called for both sides to file closing briefings by July 10 and is hoping to have a ruling by mid-August.
O’Bannon, who led UCLA to a national title in 1995, is also part of the group settling with EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Co. Also covered by the settlement are suits brought by former Arizona State quarterback Sam Keller, former West Virginia football player Shawne Alston and former Rutgers player Ryan Hart.
According to the filing, a pool of money will be available to players after attorneys take 33% of the proposed settlement and up to $2.5 million in expenses. Named plaintiffs like O’Bannon and Keller will receive $15,000, while others who joined the suit later would get $2,500 or $5,000. The majority of the money, however, will go to athletes who file for claims, a group that attorneys say could contain between 140,000 and 200,000 players who were on football and basketball rosters since 2003. The final payouts will depend on how many of those athletes file claims in the class-action case.
EA Sports announced last year it would stop making the long-running NCAA football videogame series because of the litigation and other issues in securing licensing rights.