New Documents Show NCAA Knew EA Sports Was Using Athletes' Real-Life Characteristics
The NCAA “knew that Electronic Arts Sports made video games intending to match real-life characteristics of actual college athletes,” according to newly-released e-mails from the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit cited by Jon Solomon of the BIRMINGHAM NEWS. Lawyers for the plaintiffs, in an Aug. 31 motion unsealed yesterday in U.S. District Court in California, wrote the NCAA "knowingly tolerated this 'illegal' rigging." A July ‘03 internal e-mail shows NCAA Corporate Alliances Dir Peter Davis relaying this response he received on whether EA Sports uses current football players' names in video games: "We don't actually use player names but we do use all the attributes and jersey numbers of the players." Davis' e-mail “went on to raise the point that if Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning got injured, the video game roster would reflect that change.” Davis "expressed concern whether using Manning's number and attributes would be too close to his likeness and cause an eligibility issue.” The suit is “scheduled for a class-action certification hearing next March.” As part of a string of internal NCAA e-mails from ‘09, Davis wrote that the NCAA “reached an agreement for EA Sports to use enhanced graphics in its basketball video game.” In a separate series of e-mails between NCAA officials in ‘07, then-NCAA Senior VP/Basketball & Business Strategies Greg Shaheen “made a push for the NCAA to adopt legislation that would allow EA to use the names and likenesses of current athletes.” Shaheen argued that if the NCAA “polled athletes, they would overwhelmingly want their names used.” The O'Bannon lawsuit also "challenges the NCAA's requirement for athletes to sign forms that the plaintiffs allege relinquishes players' rights related to their names, images and likenesses even after their college career ends.” The NCAA “denies that's what those forms do” (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 11/13).