COLUMBUS — One of Ohio State’s most famous football stars sued the university Friday over a marketing program he says used athletes’ images without permission and robbed them of compensation.
Linebacker Chris Spielman filed the antitrust lawsuit in federal court in Columbus on behalf of current and former Ohio State football players.
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.
In addition to Spielman, some of the other Ohio State greats whose pictures appear on those banners include running back Archie Griffin, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1974 and 1975; lineman Jim Stillwagon, who played on the 1968 national championship team; and Mike Doss, a safety who played on the 2002 national championship team.
All are among the athletes Spielman is suing on behalf of, said Brian Duncan, a Columbus attorney who represents Spielman.
The lawsuit names Ohio State and talent management giant IMG as defendants and names Honda and Nike as co-conspirators. Nike is targeted for its “Legends of the Scarlet and Gray” vintage jersey licensing program and other apparel contracts with Ohio State.
The lawsuit accuses the university and the companies of “unjust and monopolistic behaviors” and asks for compensation above $75,000, as is typical in such complaints, while noting Ohio State makes millions in revenue from merchandising programs involving ex-athletes.
“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.
An Ohio State spokesman said he was looking into the matter.
Messages seeking comment were left with New York-based IMG, Tokyo -based Honda Motor Co. and Beaverton, Oregon-based Nike Inc.
Spielman sued in his own right and on behalf of a newly formed company, Profectus Group Inc., created by ex-Ohio State wrestling standout Mike DiSbato, representing former college athletes. Griffin is also affiliated with the company, Duncan said.
The filing comes after eight months of unsuccessful negotiations with the university, Duncan said.
Spielman told The Associated Press in a statement he will donate any money obtained through the lawsuit directly to the university’s athletic department.
Griffin plans to donate his proceeds to a nonprofit affiliated with the Profectus Group, which will serve as a players assistance fund for ex-Ohio State athletes in need.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.