Skip to main content

Former NCAA QB wins appeal, sets up First Amendment showdown with EA

ryan-hartFormer Rutgers quarterback Ryan Hart won his appeal in an ongoing lawsuit against EA Sports regarding the unauthorized use of his likeness in the NCAA Football series of games earlier this week, according to Kotaku. Hart’s victory comes after a Federal District Court judge dismissed his suit in 2011, ruling that EA has a First Amendment right to depict college football players.

Hart appealed the ruling to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, and the three-judge panel sided with the former quarterback in a 2-1 decision, ruling that “[t]he various digitized sights and sounds in the video game do not alter or transform the appelant’s identity in a significant way,” according to Judge Joseph Greenaway.

The legalities of depicting NCAA players in a for-profit manner are murky at best, and this case may help to create a new precedent. Former Nebraska and Arizona State quarterback Samuel Keller is at the Federal Appeal level in a different district with an identical complaint. Keller’s case was already combined with that of former UCLA player Ed O’Bannon, who seeks to make it a class action suit.

According to NCAA rules, a player cannot profit off of their athletic performance. Even the action of selling personal memorabilia is prohibited, as former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four of his teammates found out in 2010, leading to a five game suspension. 

While the players themselves are prohibited from receiving any compensation, the schools and other companies with license rights to NCAA football are not. Companies can sell the jerseys of any player they wish as long as that player’s name is not on the jersey, because that player would then be legally entitled to receive some of the revenue from that sale, a violation of NCAA rules. The same is true of EA Sports’ NCAA Football game series. NFL Players negotiate for fees through the Players Association, but the NCAA players cannot.  

Hart, who played for Rutgers from 2002-2005, claims that EA Sports used his likeness down to his actual football skills, his physical appearance, his stats, and even his background information. Hart’s lawyers claimed that EA essentially stole the likeness of Hart and other college football players for profit.

EA insists that the use of the players is done in such a way to create an “expressive transformation,” which would give them protection under the First Amendment. The arguments are not far removed from those EA is currently using in defense of its decision to no longer pay license fees to gun manufacturers in order to feature real weapons in games, as that too is protected under the First Amendment. 

The case will now be sent back to the District Court level for another hearing. If successful, these cases could have a significant impact both on the way the NCAA treats its players and on the future of college football video games.

Michael Rougeau
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Mike Rougeau is a journalist and writer who lives in Los Angeles with his girlfriend and two dogs. He specializes in video…
The most common PSVR 2 problems and how to fix them
A PSVR2 headset on a sky-blue background.

The hype around PSVR 2 has largely died off just a year after its launch, though there's no denying it’s a cool piece of tech. Making big strides from the original PSVR, the latest headset from Sony offers better graphics, improved tracking capabilities, and introduced the world to the sleek new Sense controllers, which make it easier than ever to interact with your virtual world.

But, like all new pieces of tech, PSVR 2 isn't without its issues. From faulty Sense controllers to blurry images, here's a look at the most common PSVR 2 issues and how to fix them. Many of these steps will also work with PSVR, though note the menu navigation might be slightly different.
Your Sense controller isn't working properly

Read more
Weekend deal: Save $350 on this Alienware gaming PC with RTX 4070
Alienware Aurora R16 sitting on a desk.

The Alienware brand is Dell’s dive into the gaming world, and Dell is coming up big today when it comes to gaming PC deals. The super popular Alienware Aurora R16 gaming desktop with some serious specs is currently discounted at Dell. It’s marked down from $2,050 to $1,700 and amounts to $350 in savings. This is one of the better Alienware deals you’ll find today and we don’t know how long it will last, so click over to Dell to claim the savings while yo can.

Why you should buy the Alienware Aurora R16 gaming desktop
There are a lot of great options when trying to ensure you’re getting one of the best gaming PCs, and with Alienware you know you’ll be getting something you can take seriously. The Alienware Aurora R16 is a gaming desktop that offers ultimate expansion and customization options, and it’s where a lot of gamers turn when they’re looking to take on the best PC games. As built for this deal the Aurora R16 has 32GB of RAM and an Intel i9 processor with 24 cores. This is a lot of power even by gaming standards, and the powerful NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4070 graphics card with 12GB of its own RAM is part of the package as well.

Read more
TopSpin 2K25 serves up a fun, but safe tennis simulation revival
Serena Williams plays Tennis in TopSpin 2K25.

The first video game console I ever owned was an original Xbox that came bundled with two games: NCAA Football 2005 and Top Spin. My appreciation for both Madden and tennis games can be traced back to those being two of my first-ever console gaming experiences.

That’s why I was very excited to hear that Mafia 3 developer Hanger 13 and publisher 2K were bringing the Top Spin tennis series back with TopSpin 2K25 after a 13-year dormancy. Unfortunately, I'm disappointed with how underwhelming the overall product is. Even though it’s the series’ grand return after over a decade, it feels like an extremely iterative sequel to Top Spin 4. It’s certainly approachable, thanks to great tutorials and new meter systems to help players learn proper timing, but TopSpin 2K25's light content offering doesn't make for the strongest opening serve.
Top Spin returns
Developer Hanger 13 hasn’t been coy about the fact that it used 2011's Top Spin 4 as the base to build TopSpin 2K25. Top Spin 4 is a fantastic tennis game that people still play to this day, as it perfected the series’ timing-based gameplay. This isn’t like Mario Tennis Aces, where a special ability can shoot you across the court and hit timing doesn’t matter. TopSpin 2K25 is a true simulation, so learning proper positioning on the court, when to release a button to swing your racket, and how to aim your shot properly are all critical to success.

Read more