Thirteen women have been removed from the all-new women's national team rosters in FIFA 16 because their appearance in a video game threatens their eligibility in the NCAA, EA Sports announced today.
None of the players play for the U.S. Women's National Team. Six play for Canada, six for Mexico and one for Spain. The players will be replaced by authentic players lower on their team's depth chart.
Notably, the players have been removed from the code that is shipping on the disc, according to an Electronic Arts spokesman. It won't be possible to get the game, avoid an update or a patch, and continue to use these players.
EA Sports, in a statement, said it was informed by the NCAA that their appearance in the game would risk their eligibility; 11 already are playing NCAA women's soccer, while two have committed to but yet to enroll in Division I universities.
EA Sports strongly disagreed with the ruling but complied so as not to damage the players' collegiate careers.
"All rights were secured following standard protocol with national governing bodies and federations, and none of these NCAA student-athletes or potential student-athletes were to be individually compensated by EA Sports for their inclusion in the game," the publisher said in a statement.
"We believe this decision denies these 13 athletes the opportunity to represent their countries in the game, but we have removed them from FIFA 16 to ensure there is no risk to their eligibility."
The NCAA notified EA Sports of the eligibility after the publisher announced the first-ever appearance of women's national teams in the series, a global best-seller. Since then, EA Sports took steps to remove the players from the game and make sure they were not used in any marketing of it.
Polygon has reached out to the NCAA for comment and will update this post when a reply is received.
The players in question, and the universities they play for, are:
Kadeisha Buchanan (West Virginia)
Jessie Fleming (not yet enrolled; verbal commitment to UCLA)
Ashley Lawrence (West Virginia)
Janine Beckie (Texas Tech)
Rebecca Quinn (Duke)
Sura Yekka (Michigan)
Tanya Samarzich (Kentucky)
Greta Espinoza (Oregon State)
Christina Murillo (Michigan)
Amanda Perez (Washington)
Emily Alvarado (not yet enrolled; verbal commitment to TCU)
Maria Sanchez (Southern California)
Celia Jiménez (Alabama)
FIFA 16 launches on Tuesday for several platforms. It also is being offered early this week through the EA Access subscription available to Xbox One owners.
Electronic Arts has paid a high price for its entanglements with the NCAA over the past few years, most notably in the form of a $40 million settlement with former and current football and men's basketball players whose likenesses were used in two different series for roughly a decade.
The litigation, which gave rise to the lawsuit brought by UCLA standout Ed O'Bannon now threatening the NCAA's lucrative television rights deals, forced the cancellation of the NCAA Football series in 2013. In testimony leading up to the settlement, Electronic Arts outlined how it had lobbied for the NCAA to allow players to appear under their own names in these college sports series, and that the organization was aware of the practices where all identifying traits of a player, except his real name, were used in the creation of these games' rosters.