Much to the chagrin of video game giant Electronic Arts, the lawsuit filed against them by former college athletes such as Ed O’Bannon (UCLA), Sam Keller (Arizona State/Nebraska football) and Jim Brown (Syracuse football) won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
Even after EA asked Judge Claudia Wilken to review the company’s agreement with the Collegiate Licensing Company, on Wednesday Judge Wilken came to the conclusion that the athletes’ lawsuit should not be dismissed.
In an opinion released on Wednesday, the judge says that a reading of the allegations about the agreements in the context of the overall complaint “do not refute” the allegations.
Specifically, as part of EA’s licensing agreement, the video game publisher agrees that it will “not encourage or participate in any activity that would cause an athlete or an institution to violate” the NCAA’s rules.
The judge says this doesn’t distinguish between former and current student-athletes and “can fairly be read” as evidence of a “meeting of the minds” between the defendants to not compensate ex-collegiate athletes.
What EA has attempted to hang its hat on is the fact that student-athletes have to sign waivers allowing the NCAA and its partners to use their likeness without compensation.
But how long should that agreement be valid? The athletes interpret the agreement as lasting in perpetuity (forever), meaning that the governing body can use their images even after their careers are over without compensating them.
Judge Wilken argued that the failure to distinguish between current and former student-athletes can be interpreted as an attempt by the governing bodies to avoid having to compensate former student-athletes.
There doesn’t seem to be a timetable as to when a verdict will be rendered but the case isn’t going away.