Football legend Brown sues EA, Sony over Madden

All-time-great NFL running back takes exception to games having historical Cleveland Browns teams with number 32 as running back.


Among other new features, this year's Madden NFL 09 features the licensed names and likenesses of some retired gridiron greats. Previously, Electronic Arts included historical teams in its games by omitting names and faces, and merely including numbers. For instance, Cleveland Browns great Jim Brown would appear on a team simply as a running back with amazing stats and the jersey number 32.

This could get ugly...
This could get ugly...

However, even having a faceless, nameless player bear his number was too much for Brown. Today, Bloomberg reported that the NFL hall-of-famer and 1970s action-film star has filed suit against Electronic Arts and Sony, alleging that they profited from his likeness and identity without his permission. According to a copy of the suit obtained by GameSpot, Brown found out earlier this year about the use of his number in Madden games, specifically Madden 2001.

Sony is named in the suit for its role in the manufacturing and distribution of the games. No mention is made of Microsoft or Nintendo, who would have played similar roles for versions of the games on their platforms.

The game included an "All Brown's Team," according to the suit, which featured "a muscular African American player wearing the number 32." Brown believes that the game infringes on his rights and acts to dilute "his inherently distinctive, and arbitrary trademark as the All-Time Great Cleveland Brown Running Back."

The suit notes that modern players sign away their likeness rights when joining the NFL player's union, but when he played, there were no video games and no union to get the rights from.

Brown asks for an injunction against EA selling the game, the forfeiture of all materials bearing his likeness, and the disgorgement of all profits earned from the sale of infringing Madden games.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email

Join the conversation
There are 274 comments about this story
274 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for gettinthatfasho

hes got a point.

Avatar image for bnazty23

I mean everyone here as well as Brown has valid points: Maybe he is taking things too literally and is a little frivolous in the fact that there is no name but simply a "likeness" to him. However, Jim Brown as well as several, several, other retired players did not make one-tenth of the money of any rookie today in their entire carers. In addition, these guys have serious injuries that they suffer from everyday with not so much as a Sorry about your pain guy- from the NFL. These retirees are pissed as h*** and the players union tries to get them money every year. So you can see his taking exception to a league and a company (EA) making boat loads off of guys like him. But it all pretty much comes down to what Gandolf alludes to and that is I like reading about video game related stories and not so much about lawsuits stateside.

Avatar image for raverrozza

what an ass. should he not be happy with how much of a legend he is. if EA had to pay for all the historical players thy would just do away with those teams. what have you drunk all your money and need some more. for goodness sake madden if anything is helping to preserve his legnedary status to kids who are too young to remeber him. i hope they take him outta th game and we all forget about him. Jim who?

Avatar image for gamerTag-shank

It's not about whether you buy the game for Jim Brown or not. EA pays the players (through the players association) money to use their likeness. Retired players don't see **** If EA doesn't want to share the wealth with the old schoolers like brown (players that didn't make in their entire careers what you're average early round rookies make in a single season) then EA shouldn't use them, nameless or not.

Avatar image for AZisBack

"a muscular African American player wearing the number 32." Really? I that is 90% of the NFL. Because of this frivolous lawsuit I have no respect for Jim Brown. I don't buy Madden for Jim Brown. I buy it to play as the crappy Arizona Cardinals!

Avatar image for Nene33

*Shaking my head in disbelieve* lighten up Jim, games usually don't pay attention to retired numbers, get over it.

Avatar image for gandalf_storm

not being funny, but how cares to honest ? Enough of this rubbish gamespot, im sure the rest of you are with me, we want gaming news not "yet another boring lawsuit from the states again"

Avatar image for karnis

load of crap

Avatar image for WmRedwine

This is a tough one. On the one hand, I really like having authentic players and old school heroes in my games. On the other hand, those people should probably get SOMETHING for being in the game. I guess, if it's going to cost more than it is worth, we should just leave all the legends of football out of the NFL games. At least they do Legends of Wrestling games so that we can see those great sports entertainers of the past duking it out. :)

Avatar image for dudewolf89

screw Joe Brown... Only suing Sony... What about Microsoft and Nintendo??? I hope he loses this case, like the loser HE IS.

Avatar image for happysox

What "Lilirch100302" was trying to say is the Browns have not been a good team since he left. He led them to the Championship in 1964 and retired the next year. They have not been back since. I actually think he has a point here but it just sounds like he wants a piece of the pie, but I can't blame him. Look at how much money these babies make nowadays compared to what he made. He was a warrior and no RB today could hold his jock strap up

Avatar image for NoseWeed619

I agree with raghraghragh.

Avatar image for raghraghragh

...what does that have to do with Sony? Jim Brown is probably a Nintendo fanboy. :lol:

Avatar image for ColdfireTrilogy

LUL someone is runnin outa moonies if you ask me.....

Avatar image for Lilirch100302

actually for you uneducated people of how sports work... JIM BROWN has retired his number #32.. that means no other player in browns history can use that number.. just like jordans #23 for the bulls... the fact that they have a african american player with similar stats and #32 on the team of the Browns is ground of a suit... since he owns that number for that specific team thats right he OWNS that number for that specific TEAM it is part of his LEGACY... yes the browns never were a great team but Brown was a great Running Back that is still recognized till today... please people dont post without knowing stuff about the sport thats the problem with internet now a days people posting stuff before researching... i hope he wins this lawsuit and gets the money he deserves so he can put it back into the community like he has been doing for years now

Avatar image for TheConsigliere

People must not know much about Jim Brown. He is doing this to distance himself from his old reputation of being an old football star. He is a big social activist where he tries to help out inner city kids in gangs and such. I can guarantee he isn't doing it for the money.

Avatar image for JamesHetfield89

Lots of unintelligent comments in this one. It's not just about a number, its about using his "likeness" and legally, that doesn't mean it has to look exactly like him. If they're clearly intending it to be him, as they most definitely are - with his number, a general likeness of him and referring to his last name - that's infringes him. Why do you think so many games include players that are suppose to be Barry Bonds, but make them white players that bear no resemblance to him? If you want test your theory that this isn't illegal, start up an online T-shirt business, selling T-shirts to fans of your favorite college sports teams. Don't directly use the universities name, just use their colors, possibly fonts and refer to their team and players = You will be sued and you will lose for infringing on their brand.

Avatar image for gnbfd

Why is Sony being sued? If Sony is sued, everyone should be sued. And why? This is a stupid lawsuit in the first place. EA>>>>>>>>>Jim Brown

Avatar image for DanieltheDead

Someone's ego is out of control...

Avatar image for melo_211

Wow...I didn't think Jim Brown was such a jerk...

Avatar image for sr0586

Sony can't be sued for this. *cough* fanboyish *cough* It all EA problem for not considering these types of things. But the odds might not be against Brown, because they (EA) has tried to replicate a character very similar to Brown. But, I can't see Brown winning this case unless there is proof that EA asked for his permission in black and white( on paper.) that signified that he rejected being on the games. Of course EA has to have proof that he did give them premission. So, my prediction is this case is going to be dismiss.

Avatar image for FDiesel44

man, Jim Brown would do that. He was an amazing athlete but he has a reputation as being a jerk.

Avatar image for blackace

Show me the money!! That's all that's about. Why did he wait 7 years to put this lawsuit out there? It's pathetic. Homes just want to make a buck. I don't see him winning this case.

Avatar image for Marked_Man

@samurai210- Your right,screw the Cleveland Clowns it's all about the Ravens. As for this article,Jim must be on his way to the poor house.What a chump.just like all the men who played for that garbage team.

Avatar image for acemasta21

why just sony and ea!!!!!!!!!why not microsoft and nintendo as well!!!!!!!!!!!

Avatar image for KOSMOSEngineer

What a loser. The number 32 does not belong to him. Sure, no one has had the number since but people had the number before.

Avatar image for BLBLAKERS10

Wow this pathetic and i have lost alot of respect for Jim Brown..

Avatar image for amkalfus

He just wants to make some money i believe... it's sad that this is what the world has come to...

Avatar image for rangr

i guess riding the coattails of some young up-and-coming athlete under the false pretense of supplying sage advice to said athlete isn't paying well enough for Mr. Brown anymore. I imagine that it is tough dealing with no longer being relevant...

Avatar image for kaelishida

oh come on. it's only a jersey NUMBER. don't tell me David Beckham is going to sue the makers of all soccer games cause now they have to use his Manchester Utd number 7 to Christiano Ronaldo. It makes ZERO sense!

Avatar image for samurai210

I didn't know who he was, when were the browns good. They are the number one loosing franchise of all time.

Avatar image for DeathKurse

Apparently someone is on the edge of bankruptcy... and I'm not talking about EA...

Avatar image for ThAdEa82

Unless the character bears his name or looks like him..he should shut up. He could possibly win the case if a court decides that 32, a retired #, belongs to him and is his likeness. I personally think he should just play football on the console of his choice...

Avatar image for Jab7604

Hes joking right

Avatar image for njean777

if im not mistaken madden came out on all 3 systems wow what a fanboy

Avatar image for Tremblay343

Obviously not going to win. Why do people even still try

Avatar image for KBABZ

Likeness rights usually mean using their facial aspects to me. Suing over someone with remarkable stats and same skin colour and big muscles doesn't count. There could be a player like that in a completely different team.

Avatar image for tony2077ca

guess he took one too many hits to the head

Avatar image for Titanfan2083

CanesThing26 I can almost guarantee the only place anyone will be able to hear about Jim Brown in 500 years is on the farthest corners of the Internet that most likely will be some sort of matrix lol. But ya no one will care about him in 500 years, hell most people these days dont even care about him but the next best player to come out of college.

Avatar image for Seymour47

So, basically, he's getting low on cash and is going down the same road most broke atheletes take. He's sueing someone! At least he didn't take the OJ route.

Avatar image for Tjeremiah1988

I see everyone is "sue" happy these days.

Avatar image for vicsrealms

Probably embarrassed for having his likeness and number being in all those horrible Madden NFL games. I'd sue too. ~chuckle~

Avatar image for Gruug

Just change the number to 23....problem solved.

Avatar image for LOXO7

Haha! Jimmy is a Mario and Master Chief fan! :D

Avatar image for Dante9916

Lol what a nub.

Avatar image for Blue_Heeler

This will be thrown out of court...and Jim Brown needs to go back into the cave he's been hiding in for 30 years.

Avatar image for frogman666

I hope he sues and wins for trillions of dollars and puts EA out of gaming forever