May 18, 2023 - Technology

EA Sports reaches deal to pay college football athletes

Illustration of a football player reaching to catch a coin

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

EA sports’ next college football game will include real college players, as long as they want in. And those players will get paid.

Why it matters: This deal, first reported by ESPN, will put a capper on a long-running controversy over compensation for college athletes in video games and can be seen as a long-term victory by players.

Details: EA has reached an agreement with OneTeam Partners, a sports marketing agency, that will allow the company to include the name, image and likeness of NCAA Division 1 football players, as long as they opt-in to being in the 2024-slated EA Sports College Football game.

What they’re saying: "We’ve wanted to feature collegiate athletes in a meaningful way from the start of our journey to bring an EA Sports college football experience back to our fans,” an EA sports spokesperson told Axios.

Between the lines: EA has been a sports gaming powerhouse for decades, but in 2009 was sued, alongside college sports organizations, by former UCLA star Ed O'Bannon over lack of payment to players.

  • In 2016, the suit was settled for $60 million, or about $1,600 per player.
  • By then, EA had gotten out of making college sports games.
  • But in 2021, the NCAA said it would no longer bar players from profiting off their name, image and likeness.

Between the lines: EA announced its return to college sports games in February 2021, with an image that stated “college football is coming back.”

  • In June 2021, a day after the NCAA ruling, the game maker confirmed to Axios that it was in the “early stages” of exploring using — and paying —players for its college football return.

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