What’s in the EA Sports College Football Contract?

Last Updated on February 23, 2024

I was able to get a copy of the EA Sports College Football contract sent out this week to college athletes for use of their name, image and likeness. After reviewing it, I’m including my thoughts below.

This information is made available for educational purposes.  It provides general information and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. This information should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.

Grant of Rights

The “NIL Rights” college athletes are granting to EA Sports under the contract are defined as follows:

“NIL Rights” means my name, image, likeness (including caricature), avatar, animation, initials, autograph, jersey number, football position, identifiable features and attributes, marks and characteristics, slogans, logos, actions, gestures, movements and celebrations, voice, audio, film, videos, photographs, interviews, personas, biographical information, athletic reputation, statistics, game and performance data, copyrights, graphical representations, and any reproduction, derivative, and simulation, and any publicity right or any other associated rights. For clarity, the NIL Rights do not include the trademarks, logos or uniform designs of my college or university (which EA will
license separately if it uses them in the Game).

One thing that immediately caught my attention was the ability of EA Sports to use slogans or logos. So, if an athlete creates their own phrase or logo, they’re giving EA Sports the ability to use it in the game without additional compensation. If I’m an athlete with the market power to profit off merchandise created with that slogan or logo, I’d probably think twice about that.

The language does specifically mention copyrights and not trademarks, so an athlete might be able to make an argument they couldn’t use any trademarked phrases or logos.

I also don’t love that they can use any derivative of the rights they’re procuring here. What if you don’t agree with how you’re being represented by a derivative use? Your only real recourse is to opt out of future games (more on that below).

Compensation

The compensation being offered to all FBS football athletes for the use of their NIL in EA Sports College Football is $600, plus a complimentary digital code to get a free copy of the game. If the athlete signs this year’s agreement, they’re also agreeing to receive $600 per game for each year they remain in the game. So, no matter how successful the game is after its reintroduction this year, the athlete is locked into that compensation amount each year.

However, I’ve been speaking with agents all morning, and many athletes are being offered separate deals for marketing and promoting the game. Although no one was willing to share terms, because the deals haven’t been signed yet, they tell me the most lucrative offers are four- to five-figures.

One agent suggested it’s less than the top 5% of players being offered these separate deals. Matt Brown, who runs the excellent Extra Points newsletter and has been extensively reporting on the game, tells me approximately 200 football athletes are being targeted for the marketing pool.

It’s also anticipated a separate deal will be offered to an athlete for the cover, which is mentioned in the contract as requiring a separate agreement.

It’s also not just football athletes being offered marketing and promotion deals. One agent told me he’s received offers for marketable female athletes to promote the game as well (and that the offers are higher than the $600 licensing fee).

There are no royalties being paid to any athletes under the contract, meaning they will not share in any revenue generated by sales of the video game.

Whether or not the compensation terms are fair has been hotly debated. There’s a good roundup of reactions over on The Comeback.

Curious what schools made on the EA Sports College Football game previously? I reported on those numbers previously.

Term

The term of the contract is from the time of being signed until the conclusion of the athlete’s last college football season during which they’ve exhausted their eligibility. However, EA Sports has the right to continue to use the athlete’s NIL through the “commercial life of the Game(s) developed or released” during the term, including the right to “use and distribute any Marketing Materials released” during that term.

Athletes can opt in now and then opt out of future games later. Notice of opting out must be received between December 1-31 to prevent inclusion in the next year’s game. EA Sports will not be required, however, to remove the athlete from any previous games, so once you opt in, you’re in for the next game.

Other Notable Terms

EA Sports will be obtaining photographs from universities, not from the athletes themselves. So, athletes will have no ability to approve or deny the image(s) of themselves that are used in the game or marketing materials.

Athletes should also note that signing the agreement does not mean that EA Sports has to put that athlete in the game. There’s language at the end that says EA Sports is not obligated to include the athlete and that their decision will be based on the athlete being on the roster of an FBS team and “other considerations at EA’s discretion.”

At the very end of the contract, it states the athlete waives the right to participate in any class, collective or joint action in the future with respect to the agreement and related claims. This prevents a situation like the one EA Sports faced in the O’Bannon or Keller cases during the game’s previous existence.

EA Sports VP of Global Marketing, John Reseburg, tweeted that in the first day the contract was out, more than 5,000 athletes opted in across 130 FBS football programs.

We’re tracking all the latest news on the EA Sports College Football game.

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