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EA Sports, CLC settle lawsuit with college players: NCAA now alone in legal battle

The battle will continue, but two parties have left the fray.

NCAA president Mark Emmert
NCAA president Mark Emmert
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

Minutes after EA Sports announced it's discontinuing its college football video game series due to the ongoing legal battle over whether to compensate college athletes for the use of their likenesses, this happened (via the victorious law firms themselves):

Thousands of current and former NCAA student-athletes have reached a landmark settlement with video game giant EA Sports and the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) over the unauthorized use of their names and likenesses - an agreement that is poised to change the business model for major college athletics [...]

The parties submitted a notice announcing their agreement to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Thursday. According to the notice, the settlement terms will be submitted to the court soon for approval. The NCAA is not part of the settlement and remains as a defendant. Earlier in the day, EA Sports announced on its website that the company will not produce a college football game next year. [...]

EA Sports was sued over its unapproved use of students' likenesses and physical descriptions in the company's popular "NCAA Football" and "NCAA Basketball" video games. CLC faced similar claims based on the sale of items branded with college athletes' names. Based on this settlement and other recent court rulings, EA Sports has agreed to change the way it develops future games featuring NCAA athletes in order to protect the rights to their likenesses.

Thousands, you say? From CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd:

Essentially each player who has appeared in the football and basketball games marketed by EA in the last decade - approximately 125,000 men - are eligible for settlement money.

That's quite a few thousand. This does not mean the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit* against the NCAA is over. The NCAA said Thursday, as a matter of fact, that it's prepared to take its fight all the way to the Supreme Court if need be.

This does not mean current players are now set to be paid moving forward -- only, if NCAA rules allow it, for previous appearances in EA games. For one thing, EA Sports just said it's not making a game at the moment, so there's nothing for which to pay current players next year.

It does mean that EA Sports is sitting out the rest of the fight. EA wanted out back in July, as a matter of fact, when it tried to have the case dismissed.

It likely also means the NCAA is in trouble. A victory by the players would virtually ensure the loosening of the NCAA's rules against player compensation, not to mention likely cost the NCAA a great deal of money in damages.

* The popular catch-all term for the multiple ongoing lawsuits against the NCAA over likeness compensation issues. The O'Bannon suit, in particular, could be declared class-action at any point.

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