Every document dump that comes out in the O’Bannon case is a revelation. There’s a steady drip, drip, drip of news about NCAA misjudgment that makes you shake your head about why the organization hasn’t quietly settled this.
This go ’round we learn that the NCAA higher-ups knew exactly what EA Sports was up to with player likenesses. Miles Brand was a little uncomfortable about it.
In an August 2007 e-mail exchange among then-NCAA president Myles Brand, another top NCAA official Tom Jernstedt, and the NCAA’s then- senior vice-president for basketball and business strategies Greg Shaheen, Brand observed that he “seriously doubts” college presidents would vote to allow the use of student-athlete names and likenesses in commercial products, including video games.
And in response, Shaheen steps in it.
Shaheen replied that he agreed but wanted to make two points, one of which was “the names and likenesses are rigged into the games now by illegal means, meaning that many of the video game players have the features, it’s just that our membership doesn’t benefit from it. [Emphasis added.]… In the end, in college basketball … we will lose the game because the sales numbers show we can’t sustain the game if it doesn’t meet the pace of realism that the other games do EA will simply pull out of this category.
“It certainly isn’t the end of the world, but it is a few million dollars (ultimately $4 to $8 million a year in the current model; more if the name/likeness matter could be solved) that we would lose. And, for college basketball to not have a video game will be a major limitation in our promotion of the game, especially to the young ages we are trying to reach.”
In other words, Shaheen told Brand that the NCAA should not just screw over the players with this. Screwing its own membership was justified, too, in the name of promotion and a few extra bucks a year. Nice. And now everybody knows that.
I don’t know who finally signed off on fighting this suit in court, but five bucks says he or she is out of a job when this debacle concludes.