Chris Spielman, a former Ohio State and NFL linebacker, is seeking to expand a lawsuit in federal court filed originally against his alma mater to cover all current and former major college football players who have had their likenesses used by universities and colleges during the past 10 years.
At the same time, Spielman wants to dismiss Ohio State as an individual defendant, though it would still be included in the expanded suit.
Spielman, who had an All-America football career with the Buckeyes from 1984 to '87, originally filed the suit in July in U.S. District Court in Columbus as a result of his dispute with Ohio State, which is represented by Kentucky-based IMG College LLC.
The lawsuit took issue with 64 banners hung in Ohio Stadium featuring players' likenesses along with a corporate logo for Honda on them. It was problematic for Spielman, he said, because it put him in conflict with his sponsorship agreement with a local Mazda dealer.
Spielman has gone to lengths to emphasize that his suit is not about getting money from or being against Ohio State. He said the issue is that the university shouldn't be able to use his name and image with a corporate sponsor without him having any say.
Attorneys for Spielman want the court to grant approval to amend his complaint to add IMG Communications as a defendant as well as two divisions of Nike, a group identified as Endeavor LLC and 10 unidentified "John Does." The focus of the suit would be on IMG, which handles the licensing and marketing arrangements for 89 universities and colleges that run football programs competing in NCAA Division I.
Spielman contends the amended complaint became necessary after Ohio State's counsel on Nov. 14 provided him contracts with IMG that suggest the firm as well as Nike, Endeavor and the other requested new defendants "have or have had similar contracts, marketing agreements, and/or licenses with other FBS schools, colleges and universities."
Spieman's agent, Bret Adams, said Spielman requested the expanded lawsuit because of his belief that a player owns his name and likeness and that he had tried to settle the case with Ohio State, which instead chose to fight.
"The university had the opportunity to be the standard bearer and be the leader on how all universities across the nation handle this on behalf of former players. Instead they chose to place obstacles with procedural maneuvering in attempting to have the case dismissed in lieu of doing the right thing," Adams said.