Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
Sunday, September 27, 2009
The Debate Over Commercial Use of College Players' Identities Continues

Nathan Crabbe and Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun wrote some interesting stuff yesterday regarding the profts made by the University of Florida from the commercial use of its players' identities.

Crabbe wrote about how the university aggressively works to stop businesses from profiting off Tim Tebow, except when its own products are involved. (See Profiting Off the Gators: A Fine Line Between What's OK and Not)

Brockway interviewed a handful of Gators' football players as to how they felt about the commercial use of their identities (See Tebow Happy to Let UF Use His Image). According to Brockway, Tebow and his family gave Florida permission to sell the No. 15 jerseys last season. And regarding the money that Florida makes from jersey sales, Tebow said that, if he had a choice, he would "choose to give it to maybe a Boys and Girls Club or something where you could help underprivileged kids."


Rick - this whole college jersey issue seems very problematic. NCAA bylaws specifically state that a player is "required to take steps to stop such an activity [unauthorized commercial use of his or her likeness ] in order to retain his or her eligibility for intercollegiate athletics.”
So this tidbit about the Tebows granting UF permission to use Tim's likeness raises 2 questions:
1. Doesnt the university, by even making this request of the Tebows in the first place, acknowledge that jerseys do in deed violate the player's right of publicity?
2. And if so (e.g. the jerseys are violations), havent Tebow and his university put Tebow in violation of this bylaw (because he is not "taking steps" to thwart it)?
Sorry for the long post, but with all the suits against EA in the past year I would imagine jersey-related suits are not far behind. Im interested in your thoughts on everything.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 9/28/2009 10:48 PM  

You raise excellent questions. The NCAA bylaws are entirely irrelevant in relation to whether a college player can establish a right of publicity cause of action in connection with jersey sales. So basically the NCAA can draft whatever it wants, and enforce (or not enforce) whatever bylaw provision it wants.

But this issue regarding Tebow's permission is interesting. In your first question, you're assuming that the university requested his permission -- but the article doesn't say that. Nevertheless, I agree with your assessment, i.e. they shouldn't need his permission UNLESS he does in fact have a right of publicity in the context of No. 15 jersey sales. From a right of publicity standpoint, the sale of jerseys is arguably even more problematic for universities than EA Sports because the schools can't argue "somebody else (EA) is doing it, not us."

Blogger Rick Karcher -- 9/29/2009 12:31 PM  

Always fascinating how the college machine exploits their student-athletes for their own financial gain.

Anonymous Chris -- 10/04/2009 8:18 PM  

I disagree with you, Chris. While a small fraction of programs do make money on their revenue sports, the vast majority of Division I programs lose money even on revenue sports, to say nothing of non-revenue sports or Division II programs. As someone saddled with a great deal of educational debt, I find it hard to swallow that these players receive nothing for the commitment of college athletics. If your counter is that a player "isn't really there for the education", I fail to see how that entitles them to some other form of compensation. An education is the compensation that is offered, take it or leave it.

Rick - Considering that Universities don't identify player's by name on the jerseys they sell, what right does a player have in his "number". Considering that a player is on the team for at most 5 years.

I think back to my younger years. I was a big Miami Hurricanes fan growing up and owned several #5 jerseys. Some of my favorite 'Canes wore 5 (including Edgerrin James and Andre Johnson). Sure, #5 referred to Edge while he was there, Andre while he was there, and Javarris James now. But the reference was amorphous. 15 is "Tebow's" now, but it won't be in a few months. I know of several universities that have tradition surrounding a particular number (Syracuse comes to mind). How much can a player stake a claim in that number in 4 years?

And everyone IS doing it. Get a number 12 Miami Jersey (Jacory Harris), a 12 Texas (Colt McCoy),or a 12 14 Oklahoma (Sam Bradford).

I find it hard to believe Tebow or anyone else could establish a claim.

OpenID thesaucereport -- 10/08/2009 11:43 AM  

Congratulations, you just earned yourself an entry in my feed reader, great blog. Please come visit my site Jacksonville Business Services And Classifieds when you got time.

Blogger rr8004 -- 10/18/2009 12:17 AM  

Congratulations, you just earned yourself an entry in my feed reader, great blog. Please come visit my site Jacksonville Business Search Engine when you got time.

Blogger rr8004 -- 10/18/2009 12:17 AM  

Post a Comment