NFL Investigating Use Of Players' Images, Team Jerseys To Promote Adult-Themed Party
The NFL is “looking into a possible trademark infringement case" after images of five players -- Chiefs S Eric Berry and CB Brandon Flowers, Texans CB Kareem Jackson, Raiders WR Jacoby Ford and Bears S Major Wright -- appeared on a flier “advertising their appearance at a Miami club’s party that also featured appearances by porn stars,” according to Kent Babb of the K.C. STAR. Berry and Flowers “were pictured in their Chiefs uniforms as two of the hosts for the May 20 party at Club Play, a Miami Beach nightclub.” The event was billed as “the official Miami launch party” for Exxxotica, a “three-day, adult-themed expo held last month.” Berry yesterday said that he “had no involvement with the party.” Berry: “I wasn’t even in Miami on May 20th. I did not have knowledge of, or consent to my name or image being used to promote, any party involving porn stars.” Flowers also said that “his name and likeness were used to promote the event without his permission.” But Babb reports Flowers “retweeted five messages about the party on his Twitter page leading up to the event.” NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy said that the league “was looking into the infringement issue,” and that the league’s legal department “would likely send a cease-and-desist letter to the nightclub that used players in their uniforms.” McCarthy said the letter “usually ends it” (K.C. STAR, 6/16). McCarthy: "It's an intellectual property issue since the players were featured in their team jerseys." He added, “Our legal team is reviewing the ad. In general, companies not affiliated with the NFL or its clubs may not depict a player in his uniform." Bears Media Services Manager Jim Christman said the ad "is an improper use of team marks and the Chicago Bears are not associated with this ad" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 6/15).
GIVING THEIR SIDE OF THE STORY: In Miami, David Neal notes Dolphins draftee Daniel Thomas, Ravens draftee Anthony Allen and Chargers draftee Corey Liuget were among the players to “issue statements distancing themselves from advertisements" for the party. Thomas in a statement through his agent, Sean Kiernan, said, “I had no knowledge of the event and did not authorize the use of my name for this party and will pursue all remedies available to me to protect the use of my name.” Mitch Frankel, Wright’s agent, issued a statement that said Wright “authorized his name and image to be used in association with a party he thought was hosted by other NFL players and didn’t know it would have any association with Exxxotica Expo.” Wright’s statement also “apologized for the usage of a photo of him in his Bears uniform, but said he didn’t authorize that, either” (MIAMI HERALD, 6/16). Jackson in a statement released through his agent, Tony Fleming, said, “I authorized my name to be used at that club with the understanding that it was going to be a party hosted by NFL Players. It was never explained to me (nor) did I ever authorize my name or likeness to be associated with Exxxotica Expo 2011” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 6/16).
NO SURPRISE HERE: In San Diego, Tim Sullivan writes this incident “would seem to be a scandal with the approximate shelf life of unrefrigerated dairy.” Sullivan: “If you’re not a hysterical talk show host or a professional prude, the idea of athletes associating with women who specialize in exposed skin is not a news flash but a cliché. If some of those athletes are sufficiently dumb or inadequately diligent to allow their names to be used in the same ad that promotes an after-party for the adult expo ‘Exxxotica,’ that’s not a crime and perhaps not even proof of a character flaw” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 6/16).