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Football great files important lawsuit against alma mater

It may seem hard to believe, but the wait for college football will soon be over, as we are just a little over a month away from the start of the 2017 season. However, if the August 26 kickoff date still seems too far away, football fans craving some drama right now needn't look any further than U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

That's because a former All-American linebacker from Ohio State University who went on to become an NFL All-Pro has filed a federal lawsuit against his alma mater over the unauthorized use of his name, image and likeness.

In the 35-page complaint, Chris Spielman, who played for the Buckeyes during the mid-80s, accuses OSU and IMG College, a sports marketing company that represents many major universities, as well as Honda and Nike of violating federal antitrust law by conspiring to not only deny payment to him, but other current and former OSU gridiron greats.

Specifically, Spielman makes the following accusations:

  • 64 banners sponsored by Honda currently hang at Ohio Stadium showcasing Spielman and other celebrated OSU players. However, neither Spielman nor any of the other athletes gave their consent to use their image, or received any form of compensation from the university or Honda.
  • OSU has executed a licensing agreement with Nike to create a line of throwback jerseys called "Legends of the Scarlet and Gray." Similarly, Spielman contends that neither he nor any other players were consulted or compensated under this agreement.

As for the relief sought, the lawsuit is seeking an injunction effectively banning OSU and IMG College from using the identities of past and present Buckeye athletes for profit absent preliminary negotiations. It is also seeking monetary damages for former players for previous unauthorized usage. For his part, Spielman has vowed to donate any money he receives in the lawsuit back to the athletic department of OSU.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this case, the first player name, image and likeness case to be pursued since O'Bannon v. NCAA, plays out. Indeed, some experts are predicting this will be the first of many to be filed by former collegiate athletes and, if this proves to be the case, it may force the Supreme Court of the United States to decide the matter.

Stay tuned for updates …

If you have questions or concerns relating to a contract dispute or other business law concerns, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can provide answers and pursue solutions. 

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