Point/Counterpoint: A $40 million settlement from EA Sports. Is this a good thing for college athletes?
Published: Monday, 02 June 2014 11:04
by Zach Barnett
Over the weekend, EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Co., agreed to a settlement with plaintiffs (note the presiding judge must still agree to the terms) led by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon for $40 million in the first of a long series of lawsuits aiming to give players a cut of the NCAA's massive television and multimedia contracts. The settlement includes payments for athletes' likenesses in football and basketball games dating as far back as 2003, which means as many as 200,000 former players are eligible for some sort of payout. O'Bannon and former Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller - who both got this ball rolling back in 2009 - will receive $15,000, a handful of others who joined the suit later will receive payouts of $5,000 or $2,500, and the rest of the class will receive as much as $951 and as little as $48 for each year their likeness appeared in an EA Sports game, depending on how many former players join the suit.
Scott and Zach had wildly different reactions to this news. Rather than just debate and argue in private conversation, we trapped both of them in the octagon and decided to hash this out in a point/counterpoint style.
Like many of you, I was obsessed with NCAA Football throughout middle school, high school and college. When my team had a tough Saturday on the field, I'd hop on NCAA and make things right. In high school, an argument among friends would be settled with a game of Florida State vs. Miami. In college, I drove to Wal-Mart and bought NCAA '09 moments after its midnight release. My virtual dynasties at Notre Dame, N.C. State, Penn State and Oregon State are the virtual stuff of virtual legend. Without NCAA, I might've had to actually, I don't know, go outside as a teenager.
When I read the news that those former players whom I played as years ago were due a settlement, my first reaction was, "Good for them." We all bought those games to be Vince Young, Adrian Peterson and Tim Tebow (along with Oregon State's four-time Heisman Trophy-winning running back Andre Jacobson, but that's beside the point.) I'm caught in the middle of this ongoing amateurism debate consuming college sports right now. I think a full scholarship plus room and board, food, books, gear, tutoring and all the extra stuff is a tremendous payment for a college athlete to receive. Somewhere between 91 and 99 percent of the time (all numbers approximate), a university invests more in a student-athlete than a student-athlete gives back in return. But jersey sales and video games - especially video games - stretch beyond the benefit a university provides a football or basketball player, and those virtual cash registers who double as college football and basketball players in real life deserve a benefit in return that stretches beyond the value of a traditional scholarship.
I'll start with the fact that I'm a capitalist at heart, and with the further notation that I believe the world would generally be a better place if people sat down and worked out their differences face to face rather than allowing the attorneys to rack up millions of dollars in fees over some issues that truly never should have gone before a court. With that said, I've said all along that players just don't understand how little their likeness is truly worth. I believe that when the players find out that their payout from the EA settlement is likely to be less than $1,000 they are going to be furious; but it's going to be a necessary wakeup call. Listen, I fully understand and agree that without the players there would be no college football, but I also caution the players that without TV revenue very, very few of these guys would have their four or five years of college life (and education) paid for and almost none of them, in my opinion, would go on to make the future income that they have the opportunity to in the NFL under the current structure. Yes, I'm going with the proverbial, "don't bite the hand that feeds you" and "the grass isn't always greener".
I'd like to bring up one further point, Ed O'Bannon's name will forever be tied to this case. I have absolutely no idea if he funded any of the attorneys' bills, but I see that he is scheduled to get a $15,000 settlement. $15,000. I read somewhere that the attorneys will receive 33% of the proposed settlement (hence $13.33 million) plus $2.5 million in expense reimbursement. So the attorneys will get paid over $15 million for their time and effort. Think about that, folks.
In summary, I think the players need to have a voice at the table (and some wise counseling), but I hope in the future they are able to work with powers that be rather than being led down a very long and litigious trail that ultimately doesn't help the players nearly as much as it helps the attorneys.
Now that you've seen our takes, we're interested in yours. Our readership has a very interesting perspective on this issue, so if you have something to add to the conversation or a worthwhile article you've read, let us know in the comments or on Twitter at @footballscoop or @zach_barnett.