EA Sports, a sports video game producer, was forced to stop making NCAA video games because past and current NCAA athletes don’t receive any of the company’s profits, despite the fact that EA Sports uses the players’ likenesses. There are multiple ways the game indirectly identifies real life players in the game, including jersey number, ability, body type, and skin color. They can not use the athletes’ names because they are not professionals, but over time, athletes realized that even using their likenesses without compensation is unfair.
The idea of paying college athletes is foreign in our culture, but people are warming up to the idea. The NCAA currently does not allow players to be compensated for the use of their likeness in video games or endorsements.
However, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that since the NCAA had such a profitable partnership with EA Sports before, there is reason to believe the relationship will resume in the future, as long as the NCAA’s rules have changed to allow the players to earn compensation from the game. And since the NCAA usually does anything possible to make money, the court reasoned, nobody would be surprised to see the kinks worked out and an NCAA football game back on the shelves.
The 9th Circuit Court thinks you're getting your NCAA video game back eventually. pic.twitter.com/W5VdPQjta3
— Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan) September 30, 2015
In other news today, a Penn State student who started a fundraiser selling T-shirts of his favorite player, 260 pounds kicker Joe Julius, that read “Big Toe Joe,” was contacted by the NCAA and forced to refund the almost $1,400 he raised because he had illegally used Julius’s likeness to earn a profit. Even though the people wanted the shirt and the student was donating all the money to a charitable cause, it was illegal under NCAA policy.
As you can see, the road to justice is long, and we are just beginning our journey. A small victory towards fair compensation of college athletes came from the courts this morning, but it will take a while for policy to set in, which is why good causes like the Penn State fundraiser will continue to get struck down by the NCAA, at least for now.