Skip to main content

Judge approves $60 million settlement for NCAA athletes in EA video games

ncaa ea settlement football 2014 oregon
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Thousands of overworked and underpaid college athletes will finally get what’s owed to them. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken of California approved a $60 million settlement from Electronic Arts, the Collegiate Licensing Company, and the NCAA over the exploitative use of college athlete’s names and likenesses in massively profitable video games without any compensation, CBS Sports reports.

“I’m pleased to be part of a landmark effort that will get student-athletes paid for the first time in history,” remarked Steve Berman, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, in response to judge Wilken’s approval. Wilkens only orally approved the settlement on Thursday. Once she formally does so on paper, there will be a 30-day objection period for appeals to be filed. If the process proceeds unhindered, payment could start going out as early as September, according to Berman.

Over 20,000 claims have already been made, and other eligible athletes now have until July 31 to join by submitting a claim here. Players who appeared in EA Sports NCAA games between 2003 and 2014 are potentially eligible for up to $7,200. The precise payout for each player depends on a number of factors, including the year and whether their name, photograph, or jersey appeared in the game. The potential pool of claimants consists of 111,174 real roster football players and 21,309 real roster basketball players who appeared in EA Sports games during the relevant time period. Current football and men’s basketball players who were active during that window are also able to file a claim without losing their NCAA eligibility. As of last week over 400 current athletes have joined the lawsuit.

The lawsuit began in 2009 when former UCLA basketball forward Ed O’Bannon called B.S. on the NCAA’s policy of not paying student athletes anything in order to maintain the amateur nature of collegiate athletics. O’Bannon and his legal team contended that this violated the Sherman Antitrust Act and the players’ right of publicity. The policy of not paying student athletes was formed in a very different media environment, before television and licensing revenue transformed college athletics into an industry worth billions of dollars. Meanwhile, EA pays nearly $35 million every year to the NFL Players Union for using its athletes’ names and likenesses. O’Bannon’s suit snowballed into a class action, which EA and the NCAA fought tooth and nail (even turning on each other) until agreeing to settle in 2014 when Judge Wilken ruled that the NCAA’s policy was in fact an antitrust violation.

More recently, comedian John Oliver used his platform of HBO’s Last Week Tonight to draw attention to the issue with a story about the often terrible working conditions forced onto high-level college athletes. It featured the lawsuit, culminating in a particularly scathing trailer for a parody video game, March Sadness 2015:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: The NCAA (HBO)
Will Fulton
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Will Fulton is a New York-based writer and theater-maker. In 2011 he co-founded mythic theater company AntiMatter Collective…
Everything announced at The Game Awards 2023
The Game Awards live show.

We've come to the end of 2023, and after a year of gigantic, highly anticipated releases and delightful surprises in the video game world, we've come to the expected conclusion. Some of the biggest games of the last few years, like Baldur's Gate 3 and Alan Wake 2, battled it out for the top prize amid a varied string of announcements Thursday night, with Baldur's Gate 3 eventually emerging with six wins, including Game of the Year and Best Performance for Neil Newbon. Alan Wake 2, which had the same number of nominations as Baldur's Gate 3, received three awards and stole the show with the Herald of Darkness live performance. Elsewhere, Cocoon and Sea of Stars scored in the indie categories, while Forza Motorsport snuck in with two wins.

However, the main focus of The Game Awards is the announcements, which set the stage for the next year of releases. Not only did we get details on Hideo Kojima's Xbox game, but we also got reveals for Monster Hunter Wild, God of War DLC, Arkane Lyon's new game, and so much more. Check out all the biggest announcements below.

Read more
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Remake coming in 2024
Tale of Two Sons brothers hugging

The reveal trailer for Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Remake, the latest iteration of the award-winning adventure game of the same name from 2013, debuted at The Game Awards 2023 as the first game in its Opening Act Preshow. Swedish director Josef Fares will take charge of the remake of his original game alongside developer Avantgarden.

“It is a privilege to see new life coming into Brothers," Fares said of the remake. "Avantgarden have done a great job to bring this story back for a new generation to experience."

Read more
Dead by Daylight goes single-player with The Casting of Frank Stone
A man wearing a mangled welding helmet.

Behaviour Interactive revealed The Casting of Frank Stone, a new narrative-focused single-player horror title set in the Dead by Daylight universe, at The Game Awards 2023.

Dead by Daylight has stayed relevant in the competitive landscape of live-service multiplayer titles in no small part due to the rollout of horror films' most iconic characters, as well as its addicting gameplay. For as popular as this asymmetrical game centered around four survivors attempting to avoid and escape one powerful killer --such as Chucky, Ghostface, and even Nic Cage -- has become, a strong narrative has never been a key ingredient in its success. We already knew the universe would be expanded with a Blumhouse-produced film adaptation, however, we now know that players looking to fully engross themselves in a new original story in that universe will finally get that chance.

Read more