IMG still in dock over Spielman case after Ohio State settles
IMG, the Endeavor-owned international sports and entertainment agency, is still in the dock in a long-running antitrust lawsuit brought against it over the alleged improper use of former players’ images, despite Chris Spielman, the former American football linebacker, having reached a settlement in the case with Ohio State University.
Ohio State has agreed to pay Spielman, a former Ohio State and NFL star, $140,000 compensation over the unauthorised use of his image on banners in the Ohio Stadium.
However, Spielman continues to allege that IMG and its business partners improperly earned millions of dollars through marketing collegiate athletes, while players received nothing, a claim that IMG disputes.
In November last year, the lawsuit against IMG and Ohio State was expanded to cover all 89 universities with commercial contracts with IMG.
In a joint statement, Ohio State and Spielman said that “they have resolved their differences concerning the use of Mr. Spielman’s name and image on banners that used to hang in Ohio Stadium. Both parties are pleased that the dispute has been resolved.”
Bret Adams, Spielman’s attorney, added: “We are pleased that the claims against OSU have been resolved and our focus is now on IMG and the pending litigation in Federal Court.
“The hypocrisy is that while IMG represents players, it’s allowing universities to exploit the name and likeness of former players.”
IMG said in a filing in a federal court in Columbus in January that the lawsuit failed to show how former footballers at the universities had been prevented from marketing their own likenesses.
The original lawsuit cited, in particular, 64 banners hung around Ohio Stadium featuring former players, including Spielman, whose legal action also targets Honda, the Japanese car giant that sponsored the banners.
However, Joseph Castrodale, an attorney representing IMG, said in the filing: “The inadequate, lumped-together allegations and unexplained causal links of the prior complaints are unchanged.”
Castrodale also contended that Spielman’s proposal to remove university-owned pictures of ex-athletes from their control would jeopardise “all the schools’ copyrights in their own athletic archives, recruiting materials, and publications touching on their own legacies.”
Honda’s contract is with IMG, which argued in its original filing to the court that there is no evidence that it did anything wrong, saying that the lawsuit “does not specifically allege that IMG did anything in connection with any alleged wrongdoing, or is about to do anything wrongful that should be prevented.”
IMG also backed the university’s defence that it was, in any case, immune from such legal action.
Spielman, who went on to play for the Detroit Lions in the NFL, was demanding compensation above $75,000, claiming that the university and the companies are guilty of “unjust and monopolistic behaviors” and pointing out that Ohio State makes millions of dollars from merchandising programmes involving former athletes.