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EA Sports settles college athlete likeness cases

NEW YORK – The NCAA is now on its own in the legal battle over whether athletes should share in the money made from the use of their likenesses.

Electronic Arts and the Collegiate Licensing Company have settled all lawsuits brought against the companies by former and current college athletes over the unauthorized use of the players’ images and likenesses in video games and other merchandise.

The NCAA is not part of the settlements, which includes the O’Bannon case. Brought by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon, that lawsuit was asking for the NCAA, EA and CLC to share billions of dollars in revenues – including those made from massive television rights deals – with college athletes.

The settlement was submitted for approval to the U.S. District Court in Northern California and the terms were confidential.

Spokeswoman Stacey Osborne said the NCAA could not comment without knowing the terms.

“Today’s settlement is a game-changer because, for the first time, student-athletes suiting up to play this weekend are going to be paid for the use of their likenesses,” said Houston-based attorney Eugene Egdorf in a statement.

Egdorf represents former Rutgers quarterback Ryan Hart, who sued EA Sports in 2009.

“We view this as the first step toward our ultimate goal of making sure all student-athletes can claim their fair share of the billions of dollars generated each year by college sports,” Egdorf said.

The other case settled was originally brought by former Nebraska and Arizona State quarterback Sam Keller.

A judge in California is considering whether the O’Bannon case can become a class-action lawsuit. Other former college athletes who are plaintiffs in that case include basketball great Oscar Robertson. Earlier this year, the first current college football players were added to the O’Bannon complaint.

Michael Hausfeld, the lead attorney in the O’Bannon case, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier Thursday, EA Sports announced it wouldn’t make a college football video game next year because of the ongoing legal issues.