Talent company wants ex-football star’s lawsuit tossed

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins - Associated Press

COLUMBUS (AP) — Efforts by a former Ohio State and NFL football star to expand his antitrust lawsuit over alleged improper use of ex-players’ images are futile and the complaint should be tossed out, talent management company IMG said in a court filing.

The dozens of colleges and universities targeted by ex-linebacker turned broadcaster Chris Spielman are immune from such lawsuits, and Spielman hasn’t shown how former football players at these schools have been prevented from marketing their own likeness, IMG said in the filing this week in federal court in Columbus.

Spielman originally sued just Ohio State, along with IMG and Nike. Last month, he asked federal Judge Michael Watson to add 89 colleges and universities to the complaint.

The proposed expanded lawsuit names schools including Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Texas, among many others.

“The inadequate, lumped-together allegations and unexplained causal links of the prior complaints are unchanged,” Joseph Castrodale, an attorney representing IMG, said in the filing.

The filing also criticized Spielman’s proposal to remove school-owned photos of ex-athletes from universities’ control.

Doing so would jeopardize “all the schools’ copyrights in their own athletic archives, recruiting materials, and publications touching on their own legacies,” Castrodale argued.

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, Spielman’s lawsuit contends.

Spielman’s attorney and agent did not immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press. Spielman’s attorney, Brian Duncan, has previously said he expects the class-action lawsuit to proceed.

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 had a contract with IMG for the program, not Ohio State.

Honda and Nike have both declined to comment.

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.

Spielman’s lawsuit is the latest development in a trend of athletes fighting for compensation they say they’re owed as a result of their participation in intercollegiate sports.

Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins

Associated Press