College athletes react on Twitter after receiving EA Sports lawsuit checks

The check received by ex-Eagles player Dan Mulrooney. (Twitter/@Coach_Mul)
The check received by ex-Eagles player Dan Mulrooney. (Twitter/@Coach_Mul)

Current and former college football and men’s basketball players are starting to receive settlement checks for previously appearing in NCAA-branded video games. This marks what's believed to be the first time active college athletes are permitted by the NCAA to get paid for use of their names, images and likenesses.

The checks come from the 2009 Sam Keller and Ed O’Bannon lawsuits against the NCAA, Electronic Arts and Collegiate Licensing Company. The likenesses and characteristics of college athletes were used by EA in football and men's basketball video games without their permission or any payment -- and with NCAA officials aware of the use behind the scenes.

The case was settled in June 2014 for $60 million with lawyers receiving 30 percent of the settlement. Now the checks are finally reaching players who made successful claims for appearing in games between 2003 and 2014, when the NCAA video games ended due to the litigation.

Leonard Aragon, the attorney for Hagens Berman Sobol Shaprio who is handling the settlement, said 24,932 checks are being issued. The average recovery for a player is $1,237, the median is $1,071, the maximum is $7,622 and the lowest is $58. The lowest payment is an outlier because that player opted out of the EA settlement and only got paid from the NCAA settlement, Aragon said. Otherwise, the lowest payment is $100.

People who received the largest checks were generally those that played five years and were featured in more recent games, plus players on legacy teams who appeared in multiple years, Aragon said. The lawyers created a point system to determine how much to award each player’s claim.

Some former players across the country went on Twitter this week to show their settlement checks. Some examples:

Jordan Cornette (Notre Dame basketball, 2001-05):

Noah Hartsock (BYU basketball, 2008-12):

Channing Crowder (Florida football, 2003-05):

Dan Mulrooney (Boston College football, 2008-10):

Darien Johnson (New Mexico State football, 2010-13):

C.J. Brown (Maryland football, 2009-14):

Jeff Hawkins (Kansas basketball, 2001-05):

CJ Wallace (Princeton basketball, 2001-05):

Drew Ferris (Florida football, 2010-14):

P.J. Fitzgerald (Alabama football, 2006-09) told CBS Sports he’s receiving about $3,800 for four years on the video game. “I have two little girls, so I’ll definitely put it aside and save,” Fitzgerald said.

Maryland defensive back Jarrett Ross, Central Florida quarterback Nick Patti and Oklahoma State wide receiver Marcell Ateman are among the current players expected to receive a check, USA Today reported. Aragon said about nine people receiving checks were identified as potentially active college athletes, all in football.

“Three we were able to find on next year’s rosters, but when we tried to contact the schools the administration wouldn’t let them talk to reporters,” Aragon said.

Aragon provided to CBS Sports additional names of current players scheduled to receive video-game checks: West Virginia offensive lineman Tyler Orlosky, a team captain and an All-Big 12 player in 2015; South Alabama offensive lineman Joseph Scelfo; Ohio cornerback Kevin Houchins, a recent transfer from Louisville; Tulane cornerback Parry Nickerson; San Diego State defensive end Alex Barrett; Texas cornerback Sheroid Evans; Georgia State defensive end Carnell Hopson; Colgate linebacker Charles Cairnie; and Kent State defensive tackle Jontey Byrd.

In addition, Notre Dame All-American defensive lineman Sheldon Day and Georgia starting defensive lineman Sterling Bailey are on the list of players getting checks. Both players were seniors last season. USA Today reported that Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green and Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews are among the NFL players getting paid from the settlement based on their time in college.

NCAA rules do not allow college athletes to be paid for use of their names, images and likenesses. When the video game settlement occurred in 2014, the NCAA said it would allow a blanket eligibility waiver for any current college athletes who receives money from the settlement.

“In no event do we consider this settlement pay for athletics performance,” NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said in 2014.

Still, the fact is a small number of current college football players are being paid for use of their name, image and likeness.

“I would point out that these are some large checks that equals or significantly exceeds what most players would have been paid had they been able to license their name, image and likeness -- whether as a group license or individual license,” Aragon said.

Given the NCAA’s current rules, no one can say for sure if that statement is accurate. It's not known what the market would bear unless it was permitted to be tested. Just like no one knows if these payments will ever occur again.

But for one moment in time, college athletes are getting paid for appearing in video games.

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CBS Sports Senior Writer

Jon Solomon is CBS Sports's national college football writer. A former Alabama resident, he now lives in Maryland and also writes extensively on NCAA topics. Jon previously worked at The Birmingham News,... Full Bio

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