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But once more details of the potential deal started to come out, not everybody was as excited. Jason Stahl, Executive Director of the College Football Players Association (CFBPA), has advocated for athletes to boycott the deal, (a move that I do not think is a good idea) saying that the proposed agreement is bad for football players.
But he wasn’t alone. Wesley Haynes, the CEO of The Brandr Group, another group licensing firm that was previously involved in conversations with EA, sent the following message to several school-based staffers on May 24, per an email obtained by Extra Points:
Like you, we received the news that confirms Electronic Arts (EA) will be compensating student-athletes who are included in the upcoming EA Sports College Football game. TBG has been in regular contact with EA throughout the last year, and we view this public confirmation as a positive step forward. Over the course of the last year, EA has mentioned an approach to us that is similar to the one now being reported in the press. We expressed concerns to EA that this proposal, on the surface, may have some issues that we would like to understand better before it moves forward.
At its core, the proposed program appears to counter the intent of NIL, which is supposed to give athletes a voice in these discussions and an opportunity for them or their representation to negotiate for fair-market-value. From what we know, we are concerned that there was no opportunity for athletes to have a voice, and this proposal may not meet the threshold of fair-market-value based on previous settlement amounts reported years ago, existing rates provided to professional athletes in similar situations, and several other factors. In fact, the terms offered may only be a fraction of fair-market-value, which we will need to confirm in further conversations with EA on behalf of student-athletes.
Again last week, we expressed new, additional concerns to EA on this matter, as well as our desire to create transparency with the program and ensure there is representation on behalf of your student-athletes. There is still over a year before the game is launched, and we will continue working with EA to recognize and respect the rights of the athletes. Our objective will be to reopen a dialogue so we can advocate and work diligently for the thousands of athletes you have entrusted us to represent. We appreciate the opportunity to work with you and for your student-athletes. As always, we are open to discussing this and any other program with you and will be proactive in providing ongoing communication around this topic.
Haynes echoed many of the same concerns that the CFBPA would later mention…that the proposed deal not only did not compensate athletes enough, but that athletes were not involved in the negotiation or decision-making process.
On Wednesday, June 14, Haynes sent the following statement to Extra Points, along with a few other media outlets:
The Brandr Group represents more than fifty percent of the student-athletes slated to participate in Electronic Arts’ (EA) offering of its upcoming EA Sports’ NCAA Football game. As advocates for student-athletes and fans of college football, we were excited to hear about the return of EA’s popular college football game and that players would have an opportunity to participate in this new iteration.
As more has been reported about the compensation offered to athletes for the use of their name, image, and likeness (NIL) in the game, we have become increasingly concerned about the fairness of that offer.
The students were not represented, nor did they have a voice in this process. Other groups of players, such as the NFL, have been afforded that as precedent. Many of the schools and athletes have entrusted The Brandr Group to give the players that voice.
The reported per athlete compensation appears to be far below fair market value for the use of these athletes’ NIL in a game that is anticipated to sell millions of units and generate hundreds of millions of dollars for EA.
We understand that EA is also proposing new product limitations that could severely restrict future revenue opportunities for student-athletes in other gaming areas.
Although the game is not set to launch until next year, we are concerned that EA is pushing to compel all the various entities into agreements that may be short of fair market value and limit future opportunities. The Brandr Group has been designated by many of the participating Universities and their student-athletes to represent student-athletes in group settings to advocate for their best interests. Group rights representation is exactly what has been provided to professional athletes and has been a critical element of the immense success for that gaming franchise with EA. Student-athletes want nothing more than equitable treatment and The Brandr Group will continue to work with all parties in support of that.
I called him on Thursday evening to clarify parts of this statement, and the potential deal:
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