NFL Hall of Famer and former Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown was awarded 600,000 dollars to drop a law suit he had levied against EA for allegedly using his likeness without permission in various Madden games. According to ESPN, Brown’s attorney Robert Carrey said in a statement, “Big business should think twice before it turns players’ hard-won identities and achievements into merchandise without permission or compensation.”
Hall of Famer Jim Brown first filed suit against the company in 2008. The law suit originates from Brown claiming that EA allegedly created a character that he believed to resemble his likeness. Brown alleges that this character was created to get around his refusal to be a part of the game, which wanted to use him as part of the 1964 Cleveland Browns championship winning team that is one of the many historical teams that are playable in Madden.
Historic teams have been a long time favorite for fans of sports games. Being able to use their local legends or the teams that dominated during their adolescence is a feature that many sports fans and gamers have appreciated. The popularity of these features in sports games have of course led to many cases of exclusion or alleged work arounds to players not wanting their likeness used. Probably the most well-known case of this is that for the longest time NBA 2K games have been without NBA Hall of Famers and television personalities Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller. This is allegedly due to the former athletes no longer being a part of the player’s union, meaning they would need to negotiate individual deals versus the collective likeness deal that is normally used. 2K has gone as far as to completely erase the players and their historical teams, the 92-93 Phoenix Suns and 99-00 Indiana Pacers respectively, from the game entirely. NBA 2k16 even uses the NBA on TNT commentary team that Barkley is a part of and just completely removes him from the cast.
This dismissal sets an interesting precedent for athletes and their likeness in sports games and is the latest development in the interesting history of athletes and video games. Brown said in a statement that “Hopefully, this is a step forward in getting companies like Electronic Arts to recognize the value that athletes have in selling their products.” Brown was paid 600,000 yet players on the cover of Madden have allegedly been paid around 100-200,000 dollars.
Madden cover over the years has typically paid $100K-$200K https://t.co/SDIADUV2wM
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) May 13, 2015
This case may set a precedent for athletes to demand more for the use of their likeness and may even at some point have an impact on whether or not these games can even continue to have historic teams in the future.