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Supreme Court’s Recent Ruling Should Help NCAA Football Video Games

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 9-0 in favor of college athletes in a compensation case against the NCAA. The NCAA has long restricted the compensation student-athletes can earn and receive, and the athletes’ victory in the antitrust lawsuit is huge for their rights moving forward.


Justice Brett Kavanaugh filed a concurring opinion, broadening the scope of the Court’s ruling from just education benefits and into overall compensation and benefits athletes should be able to earn. Justice Kavanaugh’s statement reads in part:


To be sure, the NCAA and its member colleges maintain important traditions that have become part of the fabric of America—game days in Tuscaloosa and South Bend; the packed gyms in Storrs and Durham; the women’s and men’s lacrosse championships on Memorial Day weekend; track and field meets in Eugene; the spring softball and baseball World Series in Oklahoma City and Omaha; the list goes on. But those traditions alone cannot justify the NCAA’s decision to build a massive money-raising enterprise on the backs of student athletes who are not fairly compensated. Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate. And under ordinary principles of antitrust law, it is not evident why college sports should be any different. The NCAA is not above the law.


Naturally, for those that loved the EA Sports NCAA Football video games (ending with NCAA Football 14 in 2013), your thoughts might go to the impact this has on the return of college football games.


Throughout the history of the NCAA Football series, almost everything was licensed except for player likeness. For example, Tim Tebow was simply QB #15 for the Florida Gators in the video game. However, many student athletes over the years clearly wanted to have their names in the game with their likeness being used. What college kid wouldn’t want to be in a video game that many of them enjoyed playing growing up?


Fans of the game that wanted to use the college athletes’ names were forced to utilize community-created rosters that were downloadable. Moving forward, there should be no need for QB #15 or user-edited rosters. It’s an underrated part of this ruling that shows that NCAA is losing power.


In Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion, he also noted that college athletes might consider engaging in collective bargaining for proper compensation (or that legislation can be passed to ensure college athletes have freedom to earn). There’s little reason to believe college athletes cannot then negotiate to be included in a very popular video game—the vast majority of college athletes would probably love to be in the game for free.


Things are obviously changing. When EA comes back out with its new college football game in the next few years, you can hope and realistically expect for player likeness to be included.


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