Should Tim Tebow get a cut of all the money EA Sports makes off him? Well, not his name, but everything else about him.
Load up EA Sports NCAA Football 09 and it is amazing how much the players on, for example, the USC roster — who are nameless in the game — are virtual carbon copies of the players actually on the team. And any 10-year-old can show you how to upload the actual team rosters into the game so it is Mark Sanchez at quarterback.
It makes for realistic and great gaming.
But when you buy Madden 09, the NFL players in that game get a small slice of the pie — they get paid for the use of their names and likenesses. Shouldn’t the college players being copied get the same?
[Sam] Keller, who played at Arizona State and Nebraska, is suing Electronic Arts and the NCAA for the "blatant and unlawful use" of student-athlete likenesses in video games.
Electronic Arts doesn't include the players’ names in the games, but Keller's suit contends that EA "intentionally circumvents the prohibitions on utilizing student athletes' names in commercial ventures by allowing gamers to upload entire rosters, which include players' names and other information."
This is a very detailed lawsuit that makes another stab at athletes grabbing a little slice of the rather large pie the NCAA and universities make off of major college football and men’s basketball. Right now, the University of Florida is making a small fortune on Tim Tebow jerseys, and he is seeing none of that cash. Let alone all the money that comes in from television contracts.
Previous attempts to go at the NCAA on this issue have fallen flat, but going after the video game makers is a stroke of genius.
The NCAA obviously denied this, saying that their contract with EA Sports prohibits the use of “names and pictures of current student-athletes” in their games. Right. Nobody in their right mind thinks the little two-step you have to go through to get the actual rosters in the game something the game makers didn’t intend or the NCAA didn’t allow by just looking the other way. Plausible denial in this case.
But while they may be okay by the letter of the law, once again the NCAA violates the spirit of protecting the student athlete with alarming ease. So long as they are getting paid.