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Basketball HOFer Oscar Robertson "has joined a class-action lawsuit over the use of his image and likeness from his college days," according to Marlen Garcia of USA TODAY. The amended suit was filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in S.F. and "targets the NCAA, Collegiate Licensing and Electronic Arts over revenue generated from video and memorabilia." Robertson played for the Univ. of Cincinnati from '57-60, and the suit claims that his image "still is being sold in trading card sets that bear Collegiate Licensing's logo." Robertson said, "They shouldn't be able to use my likeness or anyone else's without consent." Garcia notes the suit was "initiated in July 2009" with former UCLA F Ed O'Bannon. Michael Hausfel, a lead attorney for the former players, said that "adding Robertson as a plaintiff was a signal that this was being taken seriously by former players" (USA TODAY, 1/27). Robertson: "The arrogance of the NCAA to say, 'we have the right to do this' ... is what troubles me the most. The University of Cincinnati gets a fee each time my picture is used on a card. I don't. When I played there, there was nothing like this ever agreed to." YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel noted Basketball HOFer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar "recently filed suit against the NCAA in California state court based on the same trading cards featuring Robertson" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/26). BLOOMBERG NEWS' Nancy Kercheval notes former Univ. of Connecticut G Tate George and former Ohio State Univ. DB Ray Ellis also are "joining Robertson in the suit." The lawsuit indicated that George's "performance in Connecticut's 1990 round of 16 game, in which he caught a 90-foot pass, turned and converted it into a basket at the buzzer for a win against Clemson, was named one of the top five NCAA shots by ESPN Inc." The suit also indicated that McDonald's "used the footage for an advertisement this year without compensating the player" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 1/27).
KELLER CASE: The major sports unions have asked to present oral arguments in the closely watched Keller v Electronic Arts case. Sam Keller, a former college quarterback, sued EA for allegedly using his image in video games without his permission. EA contends the video games are akin to works of art and are protected by the first amendment. A district court judge last spring refused to dismiss the case, and EA appealed to the Ninth Circuit, which is scheduled to hear oral arguments Feb. 15. Oral arguments normally are limited to the direct parties, but the sports unions filed a friend of the court brief in November on behalf of Keller, arguing the college player should be compensated by EA and the NCAA. The request asks for five minutes of time on behalf of the NFLPA, MLBPA, NBPA, NHLPA and MLSPU. EA objected to the request, stating that it is unnecessary. But if the court agrees to it, the video game maker should have an extra five minutes (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal).
Monday marks the Univ. of California-Berkeley's "school-imposed deadline to decide whether to reinstate baseball and three other sports scheduled for elimination this summer," according to Ron Kroichick of the S.F. CHRONICLE. Baseball, women's lacrosse, men's and women's gymnastics -- "plus rugby, slated for demotion to club status -- find encouragement in feverish fundraising efforts the past four months." Cal Baseball Foundation BOD member Sam Petke said that "Save Cal Sports," a group "spearheaded by baseball alums and designed to preserve all five programs, has gathered more than" $15M in pledges. That is "still well short of the $25 million school officials say is necessary to reinstate the sports," though the programs "hope there's some flexibility on the number." In addition to raising $25M, alums and donors "must produce a long-term plan to fully endow the four programs," which "could require up to" $80M. Kroichick noted the MLB Giants "already have an established relationship with Cal," but they are "not inclined to funnel boatloads of money across the bay." Giants President & COO Larry Baer: "We're not in position to write a huge check, but we might be able to call on friends of the Giants to help." Meanwhile, Cal officials, while "respectful of fundraising efforts, have shown little public inclination to reverse their decision." A source said that there has been "a 'wall of silence' from the school in providing details to those interested in saving the programs" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/26).
Univ. of Connecticut officials yesterday said that they have been "on the phone with unhappy benefactor Robert G. Burton and that they stand behind" AD Jeff Hathaway, according to Desmond Conner of the HARTFORD COURANT. Burton in a letter to Hathaway last week "demanded $3M in donations be returned," and indicated that his relationship with UConn was "done for good." UConn interim President Philip Austin and Board of Trustees Chair Larry McHugh said that they "had phone conversations with Burton on Tuesday, when news of his request broke, but neither would reveal details of their discussions." McHugh: "We're going to be having conversations, OK? The conversations have not ended." Austin and McHugh before a Board of Trustees meeting yesterday "expressed support for Hathaway and for the process that led to the hiring" of new football coach Paul Pasqualoni, a process Burton disagreed with. Conner notes the "goal now with McHugh, Austin and Hathaway appears to be keeping the lines of communication open with Burton," who provided one of two $2.5M lead gifts for the construction of the on-campus football complex. Hathaway said, "This is about the University of Connecticut and a donor and somebody that has been supportive -- as have many, many people -- been supportive to the university. I think Chairman McHugh and President Austin said that they hoped there will be future communications, and I would expect there would be" (HARTFORD COURANT, 1/27). McHugh: "I really hope to try to mend fences and move forward. The Burtons have been very supportive of the University of Connecticut and we would like that to continue." He declined to "go into specific details about his conversation with Burton, but said he hopes to sit down with him in the near future to discuss the matter." The two have never met. McHugh: "I would say, the conversation, I was pleased with it" (GREENWICH TIME, 1/27).
OUT OF LINE? In Connecticut, Mike DiMauro notes UConn employees and athletes yesterday "offered varying opinions" about Burton and his demand. One university employee said, "Burton may have gone about it the wrong way, and his language was strong, but the overall message needed to be said. We can't afford to lose any more donors, especially ones like Burton." But former UConn football player Rob Lunn said, "Don't labor under the delusion that donating money, even $3 million, gets you into a film room or gets you any real input on game planning" (New London DAY, 1/27).