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EA Sports College Football 25 to block gamers from manually adding players who reject NIL opt-in

Gamers will be blocked from manually adding players to EA Sports’ new college football game who decide not to accept an offer to have their name, image and likeness used in it, the video-game developer said Thursday.

EA Sports revealed the safeguard in its announcement that it has begun reaching out to athletes to pay them to be featured in the video game that's set to launch this summer.

EA Sports said players who opt in to the game will receive a minimum of $600 and a copy of EA Sports College Football 25. There will also be opportunities for them to earn money by promoting the game.

Players who opt out will be left off the game entirely.

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EA Sports didn't say in its email to The Associated Press how it plans to prevent people playing the game from adding — or creating — the opt-outs. But gamers will still be able to create their own players, a staple of past college sports video games that allowed people to depict themselves alongside their favorite athletes.

The developers’ yearly college football games stopped being made in 2013 amid lawsuits over using players’ likeness without compensation. The games featured players that might not have had real-life names, but resembled that season's stars in almost every other way.

That major hurdle was alleviated with the approval of NIL deals for college athletes.

EA Sports has been working on its new game since at least 2021, when it announced it would pay players to be featured in it.

Ramogi Huma, executive director of the National College Players Association, said his focus for years has been on getting athletes opportunities like this. From that standpoint, he sees the opt-in offer as a major milestone.

“Players like being in the game,” Huma said. “There was a question of, ‘Hey, should we be paid for this?’ ... We’re going to see pretty soon here the degree to which players think it’s fair or not.”

Huma’s association was involved in what could be considered the precursor lawsuit to a litany of NIL litigation — a 2009 class-action suit filed by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon.

“I remember what the origin of this fight was,” Huma said. “And that was O’Bannon questioning why he was in EA Sports and not getting money for it.”

John Reseburg, vice president of marketing, communications and partnerships at EA Sports, said Thursday on social media that the game is a “scale of NIL that has never been done before.”

“More than 11,000 individual NIL deals all at once. Guaranteed income for athletes that opt-in. It’s in the game,” Reseburg tweeted.

A generic player created “based on the traditional strength or weakness of a position over the past decade for that school” will be used in place of players who opt out, Daryl Holt, EA Sports senior vice president, told ESPN.

On the topic of blocking opt-out players from being added, Holt told the network, “I won’t reveal how we’re dealing with that.”

“But yeah, you won’t be able to edit that,” Holt told ESPN.

Huma said he believes that aspect of the game will protect players who decide to opt out.

“I would be surprised if there are a large percentage of players that wouldn’t join,” he said. “I think that’s a good thing because it protects the players that don’t want to be in there from having their NIL used without their permission.

“If it’s not enough for some players ... it has to make sense for players to want to be in there.”

The game will feature all 134 FBS teams. Notre Dame’s inclusion had been a big question mark since the school said in 2021 it would not participate “until such time as rules have been finalized governing the participation of our student-athletes.” But the Fighting Irish’s athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, said earlier in the week they’re in.

“The work that EA SPORTS is doing to provide over 11,000 college student-athletes opportunities to benefit directly from their name, image and likeness is a first-of-its-kind undertaking and we’re proud to have been involved in the process,” Swarbrick said in a statement on social media.

ESPN “College GameDay” analyst Kirk Herbstreit and network broadcaster Chris Fowler announced Thursday on social media they will be voices in the game. “College GameDay” host Rece Davis and analysts David Pollack and Jesse Palmer made similar announcements.

___

AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football

Ryan Kryska, The Associated Press