NCAA had concern about use of images
by Steve Berkowitz, USA TODAY Sports
Lawyers representing former and current college football and men’s basketball players in an anti-trust lawsuit said in a document filed Thursday that the NCAA, video game manufacturer Electronic Arts and the nation’s leading collegiate trademark licensing and marketing firm, Collegiate Licensing Co., “worked together to affirmatively mislead the public” and college athletes “about the lengths EA went to model” videogame avatars after real players.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers also wrote: “There is a wealth of common evidence from Defendants’ own documents and testimony that will be used to show, on a common basis, that EA, CLC and the NCAA colluded to use former and current” athletes’ names, images and likenesses “in their videogames without compensation.”
Specifics backing for those claims were redacted from the document, as were several supporting exhibits. But the document does include several specific citations from documents the plaintiffs obtained from the NCAA.
Citing an e-mail written in 2005 by former NCAA membership services staffer Bo Kerin, the plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote that NCAA administrators had noted “real concern” within the NCAA that use of athletes’ images in videogames “adds to the argument that student-athletes should be unionized and receive a cut of the profits, etc.” The document also says Peter Davis, “the former NCAA Director of Corporate Alliances, admitted that there are ‘likenesses of student-athletes’ ” in a videogame produced by EA.
The suit, in a federal court in California, seeks damages from the NCAA, EA and CLC. The named plaintiffs, including former basketball stars Ed O’Bannon, Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell, say their names, images and likenesses were used illegally by the NCAA.
They allege that the defendants 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 allegedly relinquish in perpetuity all rights pertaining to the use of their names, images and likenesses in ways including TV contracts, rebroadcasts of games, and video game, jersey and other apparel … [For more on Filing says NCAA had concern about use of athlete images, click here.]