Thousands of current and former college athletes won an early victory in a class-action lawsuit when Electronic Arts agreed to pay $40 million for to settle claims against the company.
A day after the NCAA severed business ties with the popular video game company EA Sports, discontinuing their role with the popular “NCAA Football” video game franchise, Electronic Arts Thursday agreed to settle its portion of a class-action lawsuit filed by former NCAA athletes claiming their likenesses were used in the games without their permission.
According to multiple reports, 300,000 former football players will lay claim to a reported $40 million settlement between EA and former student-athletes, according to The New York Times. The sum is contingent upon approval by a federal judge overseeing the Ed O’Bannon case and, according to USA Today Sports, includes payments to current college athletes.
EA’s decision to settle was the result of three federal class-action lawsuits that threatened the maker of other mega-popular sports video games such as “Madden.” In the past, the company had wryly used NFL rookies fresh off successful college careers as their “cover boys,” displaying them in their alma mater’s uniforms on the games’ display covers.
Now EA’s business relationship with the NCAA is over, and the beleaguered organization that governs college sports is the lone defendant in the lawsuit filed four years ago by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon. According to numerous reports, Collegiate Licensing Co., the NCAA’s licensing company, will be covered by the payout.
In the New York Times report, players attorney Michael Hausfield said the court hasn’t determined how the money will be distributed.
Per USA Today, the NCAA is preparing for its defense by hiring a new law firm for the eventual trial, as well as a former U.S. solicitor general to handle appeals.
Warren Zola, a sports law professor at Boston College, summarized where the litigation stands, in regards to the position still held by the NCAA.
“You are the last defendant standing in a case where everyone else felt that settling was the best solution,” he said.