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Former NFL star aims to broaden IMG, Nike college football case

Former NFL American football star Chris Spielman has asked a judge to expand an ongoing class-action lawsuit regarding the use of images of current and former players by colleges and universities in the US.

Spielman, who played for the Ohio State University’s Buckeyes before turning professional, has said athletes should be compensated when their images are used in marketing campaigns, according to the Associated Press.

The case relates to accusations the IMG agency and US sportswear company Nike improperly used likenesses of both current and former players at 89 colleges and universities across the US. Originally filed on behalf of Ohio State athletes, the proposed antitrust complaint now includes a host of other major schools.

Spielman has accused both IMG and Nike of restricting athletes from being able to “capitalise on the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears” shed during their playing days. The lawsuit also describes the actions as “patently anti-competitive and illegal”, adding that, as a result, players lost their “freedom to compete in the open market”.

The lawsuit refers specifically to a number of marketing campaigns, including a program where images of former players with the logo of Japanese automotive manufacturer Honda were featured on 64 banners inside Ohio Stadium at Ohio State University.

Spielman said Honda executed the campaign under a contract with IMG, rather than the university. The new complaint names IMG and Nike as defendants and Honda, Ohio State, and the other universities as co-conspirators.

The lawsuit hits out at how IMG, Nike and business partners were able to earn millions of dollars from media rights contracts, film sales and rental, jersey sales and other revenue sources, while athletes did not receive any royalties.

Spielman also said in a statement to the AP that Ohio State is in line to secure $2.5bn (€2.1bn) in revenue through its contract with IMG, while other universities have similar deals in place.

The updated lawsuit comes after IMG and Ohio State previously urged a judge to dismiss the case due to no evidence of wrongdoing. In September, Ohio State also said federal courts do not have jurisdiction over the complaint and Spielman has failed to meet a legal burden that is required in this type of lawsuit.

Judge Michael Watson has not yet ruled on the motions to throw out the case, but Brian Duncan, the attorney acting on behalf of Spielman, said he is confident that the new lawsuit will progress soon.