December 3, 2021

NCAA settles suit over likenesses as trial opens in related case

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Berman_SteveBy Marisa Kendall, From The Recorder

SAN FRANCISCO — The National Collegiate Athletic Association has agreed to pay $20 million to current and former student athletes who claim they were depicted in NCAA-licensed video games without their consent.

The NCAA announced the settlement Monday, the same day a related case began trial in Oakland federal court. Plaintiffs attorneys and the NCAA are at odds over how the settlement relates to the ongoing case, in which the compensation of student athletes is also at issue.

In the ongoing case, a class of student athletes, led by named plaintiff Edward O’Bannon Jr., seeks a court order blocking the NCAA policy that prevents the association from sharing its licensing revenue with players. U.S. District Chief Judge Claudia Wilken is presiding over the antitrust bench trial.

By agreeing to Monday’s video games settlement, the NCAA has already done what it is fighting against in court, plaintiffs attorneys say.

“It’s the first time that the NCAA will pay student athletes for their performance on the field, so it’s a historic occasion,” said Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro partner Steve Berman, who represents the settling plaintiffs.

The NCAA disagrees.

“In no event do we consider this settlement pay for athletics performance,” NCAA Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy said in a news release.

The case that settled, led by named plaintiff Samuel Keller, is narrower in scope than the O’Bannon case. While O’Bannon’s suit is on behalf of all Division I football and basketball players, the Keller case is limited to the specific players who appeared in the video games.

There is also no hope of a large cash settlement in the O’Bannon case, as Wilken refused to approve a subclass seeking damages.

In both the Keller and O’Bannon cases, class members settled claims last year against Electronic Arts Inc., the maker of the video games, and the Collegiate Licensing Company for $40 million.

PHOTO: Steve Berman, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro managing partner

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