Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Fantasy Leagues Now Profiting from the Likenesses of College Athletes
Of course, I couldn't withhold my thoughts on today's press release that CBSSports.com has decided to make millions using the names and performance statistics of college football and basketball players in a fantasy league game without paying for it. There are a couple of points in the press release that I need to address:
1. A fantasy college game has never been widely accepted or attempted before because of a reluctance to utilize anything but broad signifiers in identifying college athletes. CBSSports.com had previously developed a game using generic terms including only a team and a position, like "SYRACUSE RB" and "MICHIGAN WR," instead of players' names. But it never caught on with users, due mainly to the disconnect between the robotic names and the fantasy audience, according to senior vice president and general manager Jason Kint.
Yeah. No kidding! You know why it never caught on with users? Because the game only has value if you use their names!!! But I suppose we can keep pretending that players don't have a right of publicity because "fantasy leagues only use their stats which are in the public domain." What a joke.
2. National Collegiate Athletic Association spokesman Bob Williams says that the NCAA did send a letter to CBS informing them that their bylaws were being violated by using player likenesses in the game. But he adds that because of the added exposure fantasy sports can bring the student-athlete, the NCAA does not intend to stand in the way of the fantasy game for now. "We are concerned with protecting the amateur status of the student athlete," Mr. Williams says, but he also believes that the bylaws, which were enacted "before new media," do not properly address a situation like this. Still, he warns that NCAA lawyers will be watching closely.
Umm,....o.k.,....yeah. Let me try to break this down:
a. The NCAA says its bylaws are being violated because player likenesses are in fact being used.
b. But, the NCAA says it is going to allow the violation to occur, for now, because of the added exposure fantasy leagues bring the student-athlete [which is apparently a good thing].
c. But wait a minute, the NCAA says it is concerned about "protecting" the student-athlete from this added exposure. [If you're totally confused at this point, wait, it gets better.]
d. The NCAA says it can't do anything about fantasy leagues because the bylaws don't address this situation. [Go back and read a. and b. again.]
e. The NCAA says its lawyers will be watching closely. I'm not quite sure what the lawyers will be watching, except maybe the continued exploitation of college athletes.