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Another College Football Player Takes a Stab at the NCAA

2009 May 8
by Phil Miller

Former Arizona State and University of Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller has sued EA Sports and the NCAA for using players’ names and likenesses (HT Aaron Aaker) in EA Sports’ NCAA Football video game series.

Former Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller is suing EA Sports and the NCAA, saying the video-game maker wrongly uses the names and likenesses of athletes and the NCAA sanctions the practice.

Keller’s lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court in San Francisco as a class-action, suing on behalf of all college athletes depicted in the NCAA Football and NCAA Basketball video games made by EA Sports.

Rob Carey of Phoenix, Keller’s attorney, contends EA Sports profits from using the names and likenesses of players. The lawsuit would bar EA Sports from using the names and likenesses and seeks undetermined compensation for athletes who have been portrayed in the video games.

…NCAA bylaws prohibit the use of the names and likenesses of athletes for commercial purposes. NCAA spokesman Bob Williams said in a statement Thursday that the NCAA is confident it will be dismissed from the case.

“Our agreement with EA Sports clearly prohibits the use of names and pictures of current student-athletes in their electronic games,” he said. “We are confident that no such use has occurred.”

Though names are not visible on player jerseys in the video games, the lawsuit contends EA Sports “intentionally circumvents the prohibitions on utilizing student-athletes’ names by allowing gamers to upload entire rosters, which include players’ names and other information, directly into the game in a matter of seconds.”

Here is the class action complaint. The complaint notes that in EA Sports NCAA football video games, almost every player on a college roster has a corresponding video game character with the same jersey number, position, and physical characteristics. In fact, page 5 of the complaint shows the player information for Kent State’s #6 and notes how similar that character is to Kent State football player Eugene Jarvis. The complaint argues this is not simply random.

No kidding?

This is another in a long line of fights in sports over who owns the rights to playing talent, player likenesses, etc. and who, thus, gets to profit from it. These sorts of issues will continue to crop up as long as big time college sports generate millions of dollars for universities off the sweat of their athletes.

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