EA said in documents filed in U.S. District Court in Northern California it has settled multiple class-action lawsuits brought by former NCAA players accusing the game maker of unauthorized use of player likenesses. More than 100,000 athletes were entitled to a portion of the undisclosed settlement amount.
Nonetheless, the NCAA said it will fight the cases all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, adding it has beefed up its defense team to prolong the legal battle, USA Today reported.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs in some of those suits said such a move indicates the weakness of the NCAA's case.
Michael Hausfled, one of the lead attorneys for the joint Sam Keller-Ed O'Bannon case, told USA Today the NCAA strengthening its legal team is a sign of weakness in its legal position.
"When you hire a new firm to deal with the trial and to deal with an appeal, it doesn't say a lot about your confidence in your position," he said.
"I think it's a fair resolution of the claims," Robert Carey, another attorney for the plaintiffs in the Keller-O'Bannon claims, told USA Today. "More important it allows us to turn our focus to the NCAA, which has been more hypocritical. The NCAA has been pretending these are not likenesses (of players in the video game). The NCAA was actually letting EA commercially exploit the student-athlete."
"We're prepared to take this all the way to the Supreme Court if we have to," NCAA attorney Donald Remy told the newspaper. "We are not prepared to compromise on the case."
"This is as profoundly disappointing to the people who make this game as I expect it will be for the millions who enjoy playing it each year," Cam Weber, the general manager of American football for EA Sports, said in a statement.
"We have been stuck in the middle of a dispute between the NCAA and student-athletes who seek compensation for playing college football. 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. For our part, we are working to settle the lawsuits with the student-athletes. Meanwhile, the NCAA and a number of conferences have withdrawn their support of our game. The ongoing legal issues combined with increased questions surrounding schools and conferences have left us in a difficult position – one that challenges our ability to deliver an authentic sports experience, which is the very foundation of EA Sports games," Weber said.