A federal judge approved the $60 million combined settlement in lawsuits against the NCAA, Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) and publisher Electronic Arts yesterday, paving the way for student-athletes to finally get paid for appearances in college football and basketball video games.
The settlement ends years of litigation between former college football players and EA, the CLC and the NCAA regarding the use of the student-athletes' names, images and likenesses in EA Sports' NCAA Football and NCAA March Madness series of video games. It covers two different legal actions: EA and the CLC agreed in May 2014 to pay $40 million to the players in question, while the NCAA followed in June 2014 with its own settlement of $20 million. Judge Claudia Wilken approved both during a hearing yesterday afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, according to documents filed with the court.
"We are pleased with the decision from Judge Wilken to approve the $60 million combined settlement that will be distributed to hundreds of student-athletes," said Steve Berman, managing partner at Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro and lead counsel for the plaintiffs, in a statement to Polygon. "This landmark decision marks the first time that student-athletes will be paid for their likeness or image, and stands as a huge victory in the ongoing fight for student-athletes' rights."
Pending a 30-day waiting period for objections to the approval, the settlement could take effect — and the players could start getting paid their share of the $60 million — as early as September, Berman told CBS Sports. Individual payouts will vary depending on the nature of a student-athlete's appearance in a game, and on the number of games in which the player appeared from May 2003 through September 2014.
The settlement fund's administrating firm has received more than 20,000 claims so far, according to documents that the company filed with the court. The firm reported a claim rate of about 19 percent for the EA settlement and 29 percent for the NCAA settlement, both of which are "very high compared with the range of claims rates we typically receive," the company said. The court today extended the deadline for filing claims to July 31. Claims can be filed on this website.
The player-likeness lawsuits are separate from former student-athletes' antitrust complaints against the NCAA. Judge Wilken ruled in favor of the players in the antitrust case in August 2014, and the court heard an appeal from the NCAA this past March.
We've reached out to the NCAA for comment on the settlement's approval, and will update this article with any information we receive. A representative for EA declined comment to Polygon.