Video Game Look-alikes

video gameBy Ryan Van Horn

Is that Aaron Murray?

You know it is! Well—when you’re dominating the Gators in NCAA Football 2014 with the unnamed quarterback from your Georgia Bulldogs—you know it is. So what if that “little digital guy with the big heart” has the same number, height, weight, build, skin tone, hair color, and playing style as Aaron Murray. He’s not hurting anyone but opposing defenses, right?

Apparently, some college athletes don’t appreciate not being paid when their likeness is used, and they have been fighting to get paid for years. The effort led by ex-players such as Ed O’Bannon and Sam Keller has finally started to pay off. In July, the 9th Circuit dealt EA a huge blow by ruling that use of the likeness of college athletes in its video games was not protected by the First Amendment. Following the ruling, EA has agreed to a $40 million settlement.  Additionally, even though no language prevents EA from continuing to produce college football games, EA has stated they will not be producing a college football game in 2014—most likely from the fear of future liability or the costs associated with paying the players. Whether or not active college athletes are allowed under NCAA rules to immediately accept money from the settlement is unclear according to Warren Zola, a sports law professor at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management.

Despite this huge victory for the players, the fight continues. The NCAA continues the battle on their own. Zola believes that NCAA is in a difficult position as “the last defendant standing in a case where everyone else felt that settling was the best solution.” The indefinite amount of liability could deal a crushing blow to the NCAA if they were to lose, especially as the larger conferences begin to work their way out of the NCAA’s powerful grip.

Maybe someday in the future, student-athletes will be able to work and get paid. We’ll have to wait and see.


Article References

EA drops football in ’14, settles cases as NCAA fights (USA TODAY)
Players to receive $40 million (ESPN)
O’Bannon lawyer: Settlement would require NCAA payment (USA TODAY)
Lawyers never intended for EA to stop making NCAA Football games (Polygon)

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