SBD/January 27, 2011/Colleges

Oscar Robertson Joins Class-Action Suit Against NCAA Over Use Of His Image

Lawsuit claims Robertson's image is still being used in trading card sets
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" (, 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).
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