EA Sports and the Collegiate Licensing Company have reached a historically-significant settlement with thousands of current and former NCAA student-athletes over the unauthorized use of their names and likenesses, an agreement that could alter the business model for high-profile college athletic programs.
Houston-based Lanier Law Firm attorney Eugene R. Egdorf helped negotiate the settlement on behalf of the student-athletes with California-based Electronic Arts Inc., which is the parent company of EA Sports, and Georgia-based CLC. Egdorf is an experienced sports law attorney. Attorneys Tim McIlwain, Rob Carey, Steve W. Berman, and Michael D. Hausfeld also took part in the negotiation process in other parts of the U.S.
"Today's settlement is a game-changer because, for the first time, student-athletes suiting up to play this weekend are going to be paid for the use of their likenesses," says Egdorf. "We view this as the first step toward our ultimate goal of making sure all student-athletes can claim their fair share of the billions of dollars generated each year by college sports."
The attorneys and companies submitted a notice announcing their agreement to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Thursday.
The notice states that the settlement terms will be submitted to the court soon for approval. The NCAA is not part of the settlement and remains as a defendant. Earlier in the day, EA Sports announced on its website that the company will not produce a college football game in 2014.
EA Sports was sued over its unapproved use of students' likenesses and physical descriptions in the company's popular "NCAA Football" and "NCAA Basketball" video games. CLC faced similar claims based on the sale of items branded with college athletes' names.
Egdorf joined McIlwain in August in representing former Rutgers University quarterback Ryan Hart, who originally filed his claim against EA Sports in 2009.
Carey represents former West Virginia University running back Shawne Alston, former Arizona State University and University of Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller and other student-athletes in the long-running litigation.
Hausfeld represents former University of California at Los Angeles basketball star Ed O'Bannon, former University of Cincinnati and professional basketball player Oscar Robertson, and others.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in New Jersey reversed an earlier district court ruling in May by denying EA Sports' attempt to dismiss Hart's lawsuit based on claims of First Amendment free speech protections. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California similarly rejected EA Sports' claims for First Amendment protections in Mr. Keller's case with a ruling handed down in July.