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Syracuse Football In Court: Jim Brown, Damien Rhodes, and EA Sports

Last week was a busy one for EA Sports. The video game developer was in court on two cases, both of which involved previous members of the Syracuse Football team.


Skipping the legal mumbo-jumbo for a hot second, here's the upshot: EA argued two cases. They lost one argument, and won the other. Why do we care? Because both of those cases featured former footballers from the Syracuse Orange.

The first involves former Running Back, and Syracuse-area native, Damien Rhodes, who is one of nine college players claiming that EA made boatloads of money using their "likeness" in video games without their consent.

I'm oversimplifying, but here's the gist of what went down:

Players: We worked our butts off trying to develop our abilities and hoping we'd become good enough to play after college. You turned us into cartoons and started making money hand over fist. It's not cool that you're making money off of our hard work, so you owe us dollars.

EA: Well the First Amendment lets us do it because of this thing called "freedom of expression." Your cartoons can do tons of other stuff, so it's not really you, per se, it's just an expression of you.

Court: Sort of. We'll agree about the First Amendment thing, but you're not "expressing" anything when the cartoon's position, jersey number, school, and stats are the same as the real player's.

EA: Ok, then we're providing valuable information. It's a matter of public interest.

Court: You're not providing Jack, guys. Please. It's a game, not Wikipedia. Wanna know what else? Those cats over in Jersey said the same thing when former Rutgers quarterback, Ryan Hart sued you earlier, and we've got their backs.

Of course, this isn't the end of the battle. All this did was let the players keep going with the lawsuit.

Someone who probably can't keep going with his lawsuit, however, is football legend, Jim Brown. He started with the same, basic gripe, that EA Sports used his likeness in Madden NFL, but here's the difference, again oversimplified:

Brown: By putting me in Madden, EA is misleading people into thinking that I endorse it. People tend to buy stuff I endorse, but I usually get paid for that kind of thing. EA never paid me, so they owe me some dollars.

Court: Well, close. According to the law, EA only owes you money if they mislead people on purpose. EA would basically have to tell people that you endorse the game when you don't. Since we don't see any evidence of that, we've gotta cut this one loose.

Bummer. It remains to be seen if there will be any further action from Mr. 44's camp, but the only place left to try is the U.S. Supreme Court.

So....yea. About that.