EA mimicked NCAA athlete likenesses
by Steve Berkowitz, USA TODAY Sports
OAKLAND – Video game manufacturer Electronic Arts went to great lengths to make sure the avatars in its college football and college basketball games resembled actual student-athletes, and high-ranking NCAA officials knew about, and approved of, the practice, lawyers for the plaintiffs in an anti-trust suit against EA, the NCAA and the Collegiate Licensing Co., wrote in portions of documents unsealed Wednesday night.
The new information became public the night before a federal judge is scheduled to hold a hearing on whether to certify the case as a class action. It involved portions of documents that originally were filed in a redacted form in late April. Some of the redactions were removed because of a magistrate judge’s ruling Monday that gave the plaintiffs four days to re-file their documents in a less-redacted form.
The information is part of the plaintiff’s effort to back their allegation that CLC, the nation’s leading collegiate trademark licensing and marketing firm, EA and the NCAA violated anti-trust law by conspiring to fix at zero the amount of compensation athletes can receive for the use of their names, images and likenesses in products or media while they are in school and by requiring athletes to sign forms under which they relinquish in perpetuity all rights pertaining to the use of the names, images and likenesses in ways including TV contracts, rebroadcasts of games, and video game, jersey and other apparel sales.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote that they “will use common evidence — primarily the EA development database and spreadsheets, along with EA employees’ testimony — to show that EA developed its NCAA-themed basketball and football videogames by modeling every single avatar in the games on a real” student-athlete.
“Evidence contained in thousands of pages of spreadsheets show that each avatar was matched to dozens of a real (student-athlete’s) identifying characteristics,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote. “For example, for the NCAA football videogame, EA matched: (1) the name of the real [student-athlete] (2) his real-life jersey number; (3) his position played; (4) his hometown; (5) his year of eligibility; (6) … [For more on Documents: Electronic Arts mimicked NCAA athlete likenesses, click here.]