Former Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman is suing his alma mater over its promotion of the university by using players’ likeness through its marketing department. According to the Columbus-Dispatch, the suit was filed on behalf of some current and former Buckeye players, including the 1974 and 1975 Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, and two national championship winners in lineman Jim Stillwagon (1968) and safety Mike Doss (2002).
The complaint targets Ohio State marketing programs and contracts that promote the university using likenesses of athletes, including a Honda-sponsored program of 64 banners hung around Ohio Stadium featuring photos of former players.
Ohio State and IMG, a talent management company, are listed as the lawsuit’s defendants. Honda and Nike are co-conspirators in the suit — Nike’s involvement is for its “Legends of the Scarlet and Gray” vintage jersey licensing program and other apparel contracts with the school.
One of Spielman’s Legends of the Scarlet and Gray jerseys is still available online.
According to the Columbus-Dispatch, OSU, IMG, Honda, and Nike are accused of “unjust and monopolistic behaviors” and the suit requests compensation above $75,000. It also adds that OSU makes millions of dollars off ex-athletes that are featured in merchandising.
“Former OSU student-athletes do not share in these revenues even though they have never given informed consent to the widespread and continued commercial exploitation of their images,” the lawsuit said via the Columbus-Dispatch.
Any money that Spielman may win will be donated to the university’s athletic department.
“My concern is about the exploitation of all former players across this nation who do not have the platform to stand up for themselves while universities and corporations benefit financially by selling their name and likenesses without their individual consent,” Spielman said via the newspaper.
In 2014, the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit came to an end, which at times was seen as a breakthrough in how athletes’ likeness were used by university athletic departments, and other companies. The NCAA lost, but it wasn’t by much. The judge ruled it can no longer stop schools from giving athletes money based on their names, images and likenesses. The NCAA appealed this ruling, which resulted in member schools only needing to give athletes cost of attendance.
An OSU spokesperson told the Columbus-Dispatch that Spielman’s suit is being looked into.