Sports Law Blog
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Monday, December 07, 2009
Marcus Jordan and The Capacity of College Players to Choose their own Sneakers
Over on MSN Money, John Kelly of Minyanville News recently had an interesting story on Michael Jordan's son Marcus, a freshman at the University of Central Florida. Marcus Jordan wears Air Jordan sneakers even though his team, until a few weeks ago, had a sponsorship contract with Addidas. The piece came out before Addias decided to terminate its sponsorship contract with UCF, but addresses some of the key issues. Here's an excerpt:
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In an interview with AOL’s Fanhouse, UCF athletic director Keith Tribble said that Jordan could make his own choice on what to wear, and that he wouldn't be the first athlete at the school to get permission to wear something other than Adidas -- a football player wore a different pair of shoes because of a better fit.
But that concession didn’t sit well with Adidas. The athletic-gear company says it won't bend the rules, even if -- or perhaps, especially if -- it’s for a Jordan. "There is no compromise, and the contract is currently under review," Adidas spokeswoman Andrea Corso said. . . .
This situation is just the latest in a string of recent cases exploring exactly what control current and former college athletes have over their own image. Last year, former Nebraska University quarterback Sam Keller filed a lawsuit against video-game company Electronic Arts (ERTS) and the National College Athletic Association arguing that they were illegally using the images of college football and basketball players in video games without their permission or compensation.
Former UCLA star basketball player Ed O’Bannon is suing the NCAA over its use of former student athletes' images in DVDs, video games, photographs, apparel, and other material. In a federal lawsuit filed in July, O'Bannon said the NCAA illegally has athletes sign away their rights to the commercial use of their images and doesn't share any of the proceeds from their use with the former athletes.
Other than the name of the players on the back of the character’s jersey, the images on screen are often an exact replica of the more famous college athletes, including weight, height, uniform number, and athletic skills. EA and the NCAA claim that by not including player names, they're not stealing their "likeness."
Others are not so sure. Michael McCann, who teaches legal issues relating to sports at Vermont Law School, told Minyanville that while the scholarships that universities offer the student athletes may cover any revenues that the schools generate from the players’ images, "it seems like a separate matter when a third party like a video-game publisher profits off the players' apparent images, especially when the players are forbidden under NCAA rules from earning off of their celebrity."
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To read the rest, click here.