EA Sports CFB Video Game Pays Players for NIL Rights

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EA Sports recently revealed details on athlete compensation and opt-out policies for its upcoming college football video game, EA Sports College Football 25, set to launch this summer. The game developer has begun reaching out to college athletes to pay them for the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL) in the video game.

Athletes Who Opt In Will Receive Minimum Payment and Other Opportunities

Players who opt in to be included in the game will receive a minimum payment of $600 and a copy of the game. There will also be opportunities to earn additional money through game promotions. Players who choose to opt out will not be featured at all.

EA Sports did not provide specifics on how it plans to prevent gamers from manually adding opt-out players into the game. However, gamers will still be able to create their own customizable players to use in the game alongside featured athletes. This has been a popular feature of past college sports video games.

Lawsuit Over Likeness Usage Halted Annual Releases

The developer’s yearly college football games stopped releasing in 2013 amidst lawsuits concerning the use of player likenesses without compensation. While the games did not use real player names, the virtual players closely resembled that season’s real-life college stars.

The recent expansion of name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights for college athletes removed a major legal barrier that prevented the games’ return. EA Sports has been working on developing the new game since 2021 when it first announced plans to pay athletes for their inclusion.

Tez Johnson would be a natural for the EA Game. (Photo by Tom Corno)

College Athlete Advocates Support Compensation Opportunities

Advocates for college athlete rights see the compensation offers as a major milestone. “Players like being in the game,” said Ramogi Huma, Executive Director of the National College Players Association. “There was a question of, ‘Hey, should we be paid for this?’ … We’re going to see pretty soon here the degree to which players think it’s fair or not.”

Huma’s organization was previously involved in an early 2009 class-action lawsuit filed by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon concerning the uncompensated use of athlete likenesses. “I remember what the origin of this fight was, and that was O’Bannon questioning why he was in EA Sports and not getting money for it.”

Game to Feature All FBS Teams and Top Broadcast Talent

The game will feature all 134 FBS teams, including Notre Dame which had previously been uncertain about participating. Major ESPN college football broadcasters like Kirk Herbstreit, Chris Fowler, Rece Davis, and Jesse Palmer have also signed on to provide commentary and voice acting.

EA Sports expects high athlete participation due to the NIL payment scale which involves over 11,000 individual deals. For athletes deciding to opt-out, a generic player “based on traditional strength or weakness of a position over the past decade for that school” will be used instead. There will be no option for gamers to manually edit in real opt-out players.

Terrance Ferguson is reliable target on the field or in the game. (Photo by Tom Corno)

Sports Betting in North Carolina Still Developing

While college athletes can now profit off their name and likeness through opportunities like the EA Sports video game, sports betting in North Carolina remains a complicated issue. Currently, only retail sportsbooks run by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and online horse race betting are available. However, legislation proposed in 2021 to allow statewide mobile sports wagering stalled over disagreements about allowing college sports bets.

Many lawmakers want to ban betting on in-state college teams over integrity concerns. But others argue that not allowing the very popular college wagers would just continue pushing gamblers toward illegal offshore sites. For now, major players like DraftKings and FanDuel are still waiting for North Carolina to open up before launching their mobile apps locally.

So while college athletes are starting to see financial opportunities from activities like endorsements and video game licensing, regulating and opening up sports betting on those same games remains a complex debate still playing out across North Carolina.

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