SBD/April 22, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Chargers' Weddle Accuses Bayer, Athlon Of Unauthorized Use Of His Image

Image of Weddle from when he was at the Univ. of Utah used on Alka-Seltzer boxes
Chargers S Eric Weddle filed suit Tuesday in federal court against Bayer AG, Bayer USA and Athlon Sports, "alleging the companies illegally used his image in a national marketing campaign," according to Kevin Acee of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. The "multi-million" dollar lawsuit "alleges Bayer used an image of Weddle from when he was at the University of Utah on its Alka-Seltzer antacid boxes." The image "also appeared as part of the promotion of Athlon Sports' college football preview magazine." The suit was "filed after Weddle's representatives pursued to no avail for several months some sort of settlement from Bayer and Athlon" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/22). Weddle's agent, David Canter, in a statement said, "Though this campaign never identified Eric throughout any advertisements, it was clear from the photo in question, that the image used was of Weddle, bearing the number 32 worn during his collegiate playing days at Utah. It is the same jersey number that Eric has worn for his entire NFL playing career." Weddle is "represented by Adam Kenner in the lawsuit" (NATIONALFOOTBALLPOST.com, 4/21). Canter said, "The image was photoshopped to take out all logos and intentionally darkened to make his shield cover his face but it was a photo readily used in all promo material and every time (Utah) discussed Eric. They also didn't get permission from Utah. A staffer pulled it off the Internet" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 4/21). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote the lawsuit is "another example of the ongoing tension between college athletes and NCAA sports programs" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 4/21).

IN THE DARK: THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION's Brad Wolverton noted College Sport Research Institute conducted a survey in which it "asked 3,000 football and men's basketball players if they realized that, by signing a consent form the NCAA requires them to hand over before suiting up, they were giving the association and its licensees permission to profit from their image or likenesses." Nearly 300 players responded to the survey, and "almost half said they didn't understand what rights they were signing away." Four out of 10 said that there "should be additional information clarifying how the NCAA uses their images." St. Louis Univ. sports business professor Anastasios Kaburakis, the study's lead author, noted that 54% of respondents "thought that by appearing in video games bearing their images or likenesses, they were endorsing those commercial goods." Vermont Law School Sports Law Institute Dir Michael McCann said that the results "could prove valuable for lawyers in Ed O'Bannon's closely watched case against the NCAA" (CHRONICLE.com, 4/20).
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