Home > NCAA, torts > March (of Commerce) Madness!

March (of Commerce) Madness!

In a class action lawsuit recently filed, and reported in today’s New York Times, NCAA football and basketball players are seeking damages against Electronic Arts, a company that creates video games using their likenesses.

Such lawsuits have been recognized at least since the 1950’s, when a federal appellate court in New York wrote:

“[A] man has a right in the publicity value of his photograph, i.e., the right to grant the exclusive privilege of publishing his picture….[T]his right might be called a ‘right of publicity.’ For it is common knowledge that many prominent persons (especially actors and ball-players), far from having their feelings bruised through public exposure of their likenesses, would feel sorely deprived if they no longer received money for authorizing advertisements, popularizing their countenances, displayed in newspapers, magazines, busses, trains and subways.”1

The revenue today, of course, isn’t so much in printed media, but in video games. Both the pervasively unethical NCAA and Electronic Arts know exactly what they are doing; they are in cahoots in this latest effort to deprive college athletes of any of the obscene amounts of revenue that college sports generates.

The NCAA called the complaints meritless.  Of course they did. Sooner or later, this whole edifice of exploitation is going to implode (likely via judicial action), and the NCAA has a self-preserving interest in delaying that day of reckoning.

As for Electronic Arts: The company also sells games depicting professional athletes, with only one, fig-leaf difference between the two sets of games:  The professional games have names attached, while the college games do not. Don’t worry: You can go to another site, pull up the names, and then link  them — permanently — to the Electronic Arts athletes. This reminds me of the way gun sellers were able to avoid the ban on semi-automatic weapons by selling them in pieces, for easy assembly by mail-order purchasers. (I’m serious.)

If there weren’t so much money involved, and such complicity in the exploitation of valuable labor, this would have ended a long time ago. My  belief that a court will need to take action stems from the reality that Congress is unlikely to stand against this kind of monied special  interest group. Perhaps a just verdict in this case will be the first step towards financial fairness to these athletes.

  1. Haelan Laboratories,  Inc. v. Topps Chewing Gum, Inc., 202 F.2d 866 (2d Cir. 1953).
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.