EA Sports, one of the leading video game developers, has found itself in legal trouble over its upcoming college football video game, according to a report by Front Office Sports.
The Brandr Group, a company responsible for negotiating group licensing contracts for 54 Division I schools and their athletes involved in the EA Sports college football game, has filed a lawsuit against EA.
The controversy revolves around athlete compensation and the use of name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals in the game, which is scheduled for release in 2024. The Brandr Group claims that EA is attempting to bypass its agreements and directly offer deals to athletes to feature in the game.
The lawsuit was initially filed in San Mateo County, California, where EA is headquartered, but has since been moved to the Northern District of California, a federal court.
The Brandr Group is contracted by numerous schools across the country to negotiate group licensing agreements that utilize the intellectual property of schools and athletes’ NILs.
The company alleges that EA is trying to circumvent its agreements and negotiate individual deals with athletes without involving The Brandr Group.
NEWS: EA Sports is being sued by The Brandr Group for the NIL deals that it is offering athletes to participate in the EA Sports College Football video game.@achristovichh's story » https://t.co/sE3bh3sfWG pic.twitter.com/UOACaiR2F7
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) June 20, 2023
According to court documents obtained by Front Office Sports, The Brandr Group and EA had been in communication about EA’s plans to offer NIL deals to athletes in the game.
EA initially stated that the deals for athletes from schools associated with The Brandr Group would be conducted through the company. However, in May 2023, EA decided to work with a different company named OneTeam Partners to facilitate the group licensing deals directly with athletes.
This move allows athletes to opt into deals worth $500 without any involvement from The Brandr Group.
Both The Brandr Group and an athlete advocacy group called The College Football Players Association argue that the proposed deal is below fair market value. Additionally, The Brandr Group alleges that schools may only receive 10% of the game’s total revenue, further underscoring the disparity between compensation for athletes and schools.
The lawsuit claims that EA’s decision to exclude The Brandr Group from the negotiation process is an act of “tortious interference.” It puts schools in a difficult position of potentially breaching their contracts with The Brandr Group or missing out on the opportunity for their athletes to participate in the game.
The lawsuit argues that EA’s tactics will cause irreparable harm to both The Brandr Group’s client athletes and all student-athletes who opt into the direct deal, as they are deprived of the opportunity to have their own representative negotiate for fair compensation.
In response to the situation, The Brandr Group has requested that EA cease all negotiations with athletes and schools associated with the company. They emphasize their commitment to advocating for student-athletes and ensuring they receive fair compensation for the use of their NILs.
EA Sports has faced previous legal issues regarding college sports video games. The company has not released a college football game for over a decade, following a federal court case known as O’Bannon v. NCAA. The court ruled that it was unlawful for the NCAA and EA to use college athletes’ NILs in video games without compensating them.
The emergence of the NIL era allowed EA to resume the development of college sports video games.
As of now, EA Sports has not provided a comment in response to Front Office Sports’ request for a statement.
The outcome of the lawsuit and its potential impact on the future of EA’s college football video game remain uncertain.