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NCAA reaches $20 million settlement of video game claims

Monday, June 9, 2014 | 7:15 p.m. CDT

INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA announced a $20 million settlement Monday with dozens of former college athletes over college-themed basketball and football video games produced by Electronic Arts.

The agreement comes a little more than one week after the video game manufacturer agreed to a $40 million settlement in a similar but separate case, bringing the total payout planned for athletes to $60 million, said Steve Berman, an attorney for the plaintiffs, and the NCAA.

More than 100,000 athletes could have access to the money, though NCAA officials have already said they will not punish any current players who might receive part of the money. Details of the settlement must still be finalized.

"I think it sets a precedent in that regard that if you're going to use a players' likeness in this regard, that you're going to have to pay for it," Berman told The Associated Press.

NCAA officials said the deal will end the case brought by former Nebraska and Arizona State quarterback Sam Keller. The case was scheduled for trial in March 2015.

The agreement was announced hours before the NCAA went on trial in federal court in California. Former UCLA star Ed O'Bannon and others filed a class-action lawsuit claims against the NCAA over the use of their images in broadcasts and video games without compensation, a case many believe could dramatically change college athletics.

Keller sued EA Sports and the NCAA, saying the video-game maker wrongly used the names and likenesses of athletes and the NCAA sanctioned the practice. His class-action was on behalf of all college athletes depicted in the NCAA Football and NCAA Basketball video games made by EA Sports.

Like O'Bannon's case, Keller's lawsuit also alleged that the NCAA unfairly deprived athletes of their share of revenues generated by their performances. But Keller's lawsuit made different legal arguments, claiming the NCAA violated the players' commercial rights when it refused to cut them in on marketing deals using their images.

It was unclear how much each player will get from a settlement that Berman said would mark the first time college athletes will be compensated for their on-the-field performance. He estimated each player could receive from $400 to "a couple of thousand dollars."

Berman said the two sides spent the past six months discussing a deal.

"With the games no longer in production and the plaintiffs settling their claims with EA and the Collegiate Licensing Company, the NCAA viewed a settlement now as an appropriate opportunity to provide complete closure to the video game plaintiffs," NCAA Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy said.

The NCAA insists the deal will not change its amateurism rules or the way the game is intended to be played.


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