Ex-Ohio State great widens lawsuit over commercial image use
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A former Ohio State and NFL star is asking a judge to let him expand a class-action lawsuit over allegations that marketing campaigns for dozens of big-time colleges and universities improperly used the images of thousands of current and former football players.
Those athletes should be compensated, according to the proposed update of a lawsuit by ex-linebacker turned broadcaster Chris Spielman.
Attorneys for Spielman asked a federal judge Tuesday to allow the broad expansion of Spielman’s claims, which accuse talent management giant IMG and apparel-maker Nike of wrongly using the likenesses of current and former players at 89 colleges and universities.
Spielman attorney Brian Duncan said he’s confident the expanded lawsuit will go forward soon.
Originally filed just on behalf of Ohio State athletes, the proposed antitrust complaint names schools including Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Texas, among many others.
IMG and Nike have restricted players’ ability to “capitalize on the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears” shed by Spielman and the other athletes during their playing days, said the proposed lawsuit, also filed Tuesday.
The updated complaint calls IMG and Nike’s actions “patently anti-competitive and illegal,” and said actions by the companies and the universities led to the players “losing their freedom to compete in the open market.”
One contested marketing campaign is a Honda-sponsored program of 64 banners hung around Ohio Stadium featuring photos of former players with a Honda logo. Honda executed the program under contract with IMG, not Ohio State.
IMG, Nike and their business partners earned millions from TV contracts, rebroadcasts, film sales and rentals, jersey sales and other sources while athletes received nothing, according to the updated lawsuit.
The new complaint names IMG and Nike as defendants and Honda, Ohio State, and the other universities as co-conspirators. Nike is targeted for its “Legends of the Scarlet and Gray” vintage jersey licensing program and for other apparel contracts at the various other schools.
Ohio State alone will receive $2.5 billion in revenue through its IMG contract and the company has similar contracts at other universities, Spielman told The Associated Press in a statement Tuesday.
Spielman said he remains hopeful Ohio State “will step up and lead the change in this area on behalf of its former players. ”
Both IMG and Ohio State have previously urged a judge to dismiss the lawsuit. In October, IMG Worldwide, Inc. and related entities said the lawsuit should be tossed out because there’s no evidence the company did anything wrong. In September, the university said federal courts don’t have jurisdiction over the complaint and Spielman hasn’t met a legal burden required in such antitrust lawsuits. Judge Michael Watson has yet to rule on the motions to throw out the case.
Messages were left for Honda’s Ohio-based spokesman, Ohio State, and Beaverton, Oregon-based Nike Inc. An attorney for New York-based IMG said he hadn’t had a chance to review the new lawsuit.
Spielman is an NFL and college football analyst for Fox. He was an All-American linebacker at Ohio State, where he played from 1984 to 1987, and an All-Pro linebacker in the NFL who spent most of his career with the Detroit Lions.
A breast cancer research center at Ohio State carries the name of his late wife, Stefanie Spielman, who died of cancer in 2009.