On May 5, 2009 former Arizona State and Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that EA Sports and the NCAA unlawfully used player images in their NCAA football and basketball video games. The lawsuit (read it here) received quite a bit of initial attention, but no one pointed out the most fascinating angle of the case, the NCAA is being accused of violating their own rules of amateurism, selling the rights to the players that they're supposed to protect.
Yep, the NCAA, baronial ruler of the collegiate landscape, investigator of impropriety from sea to shining sea, protector of amateur athletics, may be in need of investigation themselves. Oh, the delicious irony. What's at stake in Sam Keller's lawsuit? Only every game and every record featuring NCAA athletes in football and basketball over the past decade. Thankfully, this lawsuit falls right in my legal expertise; I'm a lawyer with a decent knowledge of NCAA regulations and a great knowledge of NCAA video games. As I read this lawsuit, I began to realize that it's much bigger than a video game, the lawsuit makes a really bold statement, it accuses the NCAA of violating their own rules of amateurism.
That's a huge story that no one is talking about.
Here's the crux of the matter in four sentences: The NCAA prohibits players from being paid anything for their participation in collegiate athletics. Yet if the NCAA appropriated player likenesses on these video games then they must pay something of value to the players whose images they appropriated. Only then they'll be paying players for their participation in collegiate athletics. Yep, the NCAA will be violating NCAA rules on amateurism.
Photo: Photo Illustration of what Tebow might look like on EA 2009 NCAA Football cover. Not real cover.
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