Last week, EA Sports, the video game developer of popular sports games that include the Madden franchise, announced that it wouldn’t release a new version of its NCAA Football series next year.
According to a press release by Cam Weber, EA Sports’ general manager of American Football, the decision was made because of lawsuits from student-athletes alleging that the game uses their likeness without proper compensation.
“We have been stuck in the middle of a dispute between the NCAA and student-athletes who seek compensation for playing college football,” Weber said. “Just like companies that broadcast college games and those that provide equipment and apparel, we follow rules that are set by the NCAA – but those rules are being challenged by some student-athletes.”
Shortly after that press release came out, it was announced that EA Sports had settled lawsuits with former NCAA student-athletes for a reported $40 million.
EA Sports shouldn’t have made the decision to cancel the video game series for a number of reasons.
First off, with EA backing out of the lawsuit between itself and former student-athletes, the NCAA is left as the only defendant in the now famous Ed O’Bannon lawsuit, which alleges that student-athletes’ likenesses were used inappropriately.
If EA sets the precedent that it believes that student-athletes should be paid for their commercial appearances on video games and televised games, that will inevitably influence the decision of either the judge or jury that decides the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit.
Athletes shouldn’t be paid for their commercial appearances, because it is the school or conference or sport that makes the student-athlete famous, not the other way around.
One of the biggest lightning rods of controversy in college sports today is Texas A&M; quarterback Johnny Manziel. He was recently suspended for one half of a game by the NCAA for his role in a scandal in which he was allegedly paid for autographs.
The debates surrounding Manziel centered around whether or not Manziel has a right to earn money off his likeness even though NCAA rules specifically state it is against the rules to do so. Many people say that it is time to pay student-athletes the money they supposedly earn their schools.
But imagine Johnny Manziel didn’t go to Texas A&M;, which routinely sells out its stadium of more than 80,000 and is one of the most storied college programs in a state obsessed with football. Imagine instead that he went to Stephen F. Austin State, another school in Texas. While that school still plays at the Division I FCS level, it’s nowhere near as popular as Texas A&M.; If Manziel played at Stephen F. Austin, would he have anywhere near the popularity he has due to the fact that he plays at Texas A&M;?
The answer is no. Manziel would squander into nothingness, almost regardless of how successful he was at Stephen F. Austin, and Texas A&M; would still sell out its stadium, making the same amount of money from football.
You can look at the example of Joe Flacco, the Super Bowl winning quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens. Few had heard of him coming out of college because he played for FCS Delaware. Therefore, he wasn’t nearly as popular and didn’t get the same type of endorsement offers compared to what he might’ve gotten had he played at a BCS conference, FBS school.
Secondly, NCAA Football is a widely popular game franchise that EA Sports shouldn’t cancel due to threats from a few student-athletes with sour grapes.
The money from video game contracts was rightfully going to the NCAA, along with member conferences and schools. It’s simply unfair to take away a game that brings joy to millions because of one lawsuit.
Overall, EA Sports made the decision to not release a new NCAA Football game in 2014 out of fear. Instead, the company should’ve flexed its muscle and not settled the lawsuit with the former student-athletes. Had the case gone to trial, surely an agreement would’ve been made that would’ve appeased both sides which would’ve allowed EA Sports to continue releasing the NCAA Football game.