For the first time in a decade, EA Sports will be releasing a college football game this season. The main reasons for that 10-year hiatus was a conflict over player payments (which weren’t allowed under NCAA rules) and likenesses. Those had presumably been resolved in the lead-up to EA Sports College Football’s release later this year, but now players are being asked to boycott the game over what has been described as “a ridiculously low amount of money”.
When the NCAA changed its rules in 2021 to allow limited types of payments to players—a long-overdue decision, since those players generated billions in revenue for broadcasters and colleges—it cleared the way for players to be paid to appear in a video game, and EA were quick to announce EA Sports College Football, a game that won’t carry the NCAA branding itself but which will feature most of the nation’s biggest and most popular programs.
Details are now emerging about how those payments are going to work, though, and the College Football Players Association are not happy. College sports news site On3 are reporting that the CFBPA are urging players not to sign away their likenesses for the game, pointing to an outrageously low sum being offered by EA and the company they’ve hired to handle this legal stuff, OneTeam Partners.
On3 says “the cash pool for athletes was in the $5 million neighborhood”, which sounds like a lot but when you factor in the number of teams and the huge rosters, that adds up to roughly $500 per player, while Sportico’s reporting adds that there would be no additional royalty payments either.
Justin Falcinelli, vice president of the CFBPA, says players should refuse the deal:
All current players should boycott this deal. It is an opt-in deal, and they should not opt into it. It is just a ridiculously low amount of money. Given the context and the hype that surrounds this game. When we first heard the number, we’re like, ‘Alright, that sounds low. Let’s go figure out if it is low.’ And started talking to guys, talked to some of my friends, some guys who are still playing in the NFL. ‘So, what are NFL players getting paid for Madden?’ And the numbers we were given were from 2019, it was disclosed that they got, I think, about $17,000. And then a current NFL player told us that he got a check for $28,000 this year for Madden.
Nobody is saying that college players should be paid the same as NFL players for Madden, because EA Sports College Football is not going to sell like Madden does. But $500?
Falcinelli says the reported pay offer fits a pattern they’ve seen since the NCAA brought in NIL (name, image and likeness) rules in 2021. “It’s another one of those things that seem to be the pattern in college football. Like, ‘Oh, there’s one thing that’s happening that sounds great.’ But then you dig into it, and you’re like, ‘Alright, maybe a step in the right direction, but it’s still just exploiting the players.’”