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Former athletes win lawsuit vs. Electronic Arts; what does it mean for O’Bannon?

sam keller AP

The Ed O’Bannon lawsuit is still waiting on a possible class certification, so a ruling on whether current and/or former athletes will eventually be entitled to compensation for the use of their name, image and likeness remains a ways off.

But a ruling in a separate case involving former athletes could hint at what’s ahead for O’Bannon. Reuters reports that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Electronic Arts in a lawsuit over the use of the likenesses of former college players, including former Arizona State and Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller (pictured), in its NCAA Football video game franchise. The decision, as made by a 2-1 vote, claims EA did not deserve protection for free expression under the First Amendment and paves the way for athletes to sue the company.

“Given that NCAA football realistically portrays college football players in the context of college football games, the district court was correct in concluding that EA cannot prevail,” wrote Judge Jay S. Bybee.

EA, the NCAA and Collegiate Licensing Company are co-defendants in the O’Bannon suit, and plaintiffs claim the images, likenesses and/or names of athletes are used without proper compensation. Both EA and the NCAA have recently sought dismissal from the case. The NCAA also, in a clear CYA move, ended its licensing agreement with EA Sports for the NCAA Football franchise. EA will continue to make the video game, just without the NCAA name on the front.

But the Keller case could indicate a settlement is coming sooner or later — at least from EA. Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated explains:

Whether the NCAA and CLC would follow suit remains to be seen, but McCann’s tweets, and the fact that the NCAA is fighting over amateurism and bylaws, indicate it’s not likely.

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12 Responses to “Former athletes win lawsuit vs. Electronic Arts; what does it mean for O’Bannon?”
  1. 8to80texansblog says: Jul 31, 2013 3:36 PM

    Interesting…. especially the part about the O’Bannon lawsuit being litigated in the same district.

  2. southernpatriots says: Jul 31, 2013 3:43 PM

    McCann is likely correct about an O’Bannon and EA settlement. That would eliminate EA from the suit and would take uncertainty out of their future, even limiting the payout.

    O’Bannon will likely win on his suit v. CLC & the NCAA. Attorneys familiar with the cases have predicted the results so far and predict O’Bannon will prevail on the other two suits as well.

    As many have posted in past stories on this and related topics, this will most likely mean a complete change for college/university athletics, or most certainly how they conduct business.

  3. Deb says: Jul 31, 2013 4:15 PM

    @southernpatriots …

    Yes … and in this case, I think change is good for the athletes.

  4. canetic says: Jul 31, 2013 7:48 PM

    I don’t blame Sam Keller for suing. EA Sports must have sold millions of copies of NCAA Football because of Sam Keller.

  5. irishdodger says: Jul 31, 2013 8:34 PM

    If any company is profiting off the likeness of a college athlete, I don’t have a problem w/ setting aside money in a pool for all those affected athletes to be paid from upon their amateur status expiring. Other than that, I remain firmly against paying players while they are college students.

  6. Deb says: Jul 31, 2013 10:18 PM

    Clearly I am in the minority in thinking these changes will be good for athletes :)

    I’m not opposed to what irishdodger has proposed–setting aside the money to be paid after their college careers have ended. But the money should go to the athletes. It’s absurd for a player like Alabama’s Tyrone Prothro, whose promising career ended with an injury, to see others continue to profit from his name years later while he gets nothing.

  7. tlmoon2112 says: Aug 1, 2013 2:07 AM

    As a former EA Sports employee, you people have no idea how different this will make all sports games going forward. Then again, if you don’t play games I guess you don’t care much. This won’t just effect EA. All of various game companies that write sports games will have to make their games very dry and vanilla. “It’s in the game” will likely have to go away as a mantra as well. It’s a damn shame.

  8. sensiblebuc says: Aug 1, 2013 7:12 AM


    That’s flat wrong. First, the only two games that are affected are college sports games. What’s that like two games? Football and basketball? In every other sports game EA makes the athletes therein are compensated already. Secondly, all the NCAA has to do is compensate its athletes with some sort of royalties and the people can have their NCAA game back! It’s that simple. Quid pro quo.

  9. allen227 says: Aug 1, 2013 7:58 AM


    2K makes EA look like crap anyway. So long EA, been a longtime coming.

  10. raiderufan says: Aug 1, 2013 11:34 AM

    NCAA 13 will be the last NCAA football game made. The only reason it’s lasted this much longer than NCAA Baseball and Basketball is because of the amount of money they can throw at it.

    The height, weight, playing style, etc for every player is damn near perfect and you can share rosters and have the names added the day you buy the game with every D1 player in the country added. The roster sharing gives them the ability to say “not us, them” but they clearly provided it to match correct names to the perfectly built models.

    I’ve always wondered how they continue to get away with it.

  11. ironman721 says: Aug 1, 2013 10:02 PM

    Loved NCAA video game since the 90s. Really disappointed that scumbag has-bins begging for change, because they sucked as pros and are to lazy to work, ruined a great game!

  12. Deb says: Aug 1, 2013 11:16 PM

    Ah … there’s the rub. No one really cares about players who’ve given their all to the game, been injured and are working at menial jobs while billionaire gamemakers and universities are profiting from their likenesses. In the end, the boys are just upset because they think this will mess up their toys. And you brats have the nerve to talk about other people being selfish or lazy?

    Don’t worry, kids. The games will be fine. :roll:

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