I am categorizing this as college sports because I think that this is relevant when it comes to the NCAA football franchise. Feel free to move if you disagree.
See this article here:
Basically AM General, who manufacturers Humvees, attempted to sue for trademark violations ofHumvees and their likeness being used in Call of Duty games.
Judge rules that since video games are art and the realism is enhanced by the presence of Humvees, it is acceptable.
It seems like if video games are art now, couldn't EA use any college trademark or the likenesses of anyone they want without permission to enhance the realism of the game?
AM General could not demonstrate that their brand was damaged by the use nor could they demonstrate that someone would confuse purchasing the video game over purchasing an actual Humvee. I would contend that universities or the NCAA could not contend that their brands are damaged by video games depicting college football, nor could they argue that anyone would confuse the video game for the real thing.
So basically the games got shut down because it actually licensed it's trademarks, but if it had not, they would be fine under this ruling.
What about players likenesses? That's really what got them in trouble so you would have to still abandon that. But I think the game itself could remain intact otherwise. And they wouldn't need to pay licensing to the NCAA or any school to use their likenesses. Because it's art and they are allowed to be realistic.