Fox NFL and college football analyst and former Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman filed a class-action lawsuit against the school, IMG, Nike, and Honda in July over unauthorized commercial use of athletes’ images. Spielman discussed the lawsuit later that month, saying that it’s about the principle and that he’ll donate any winnings to the Ohio State athletic department.
Now, the university has responded. As Andrew Welsh-Huggins of The Associated Press writes, they’re asking the federal judge overseeing the case to dismiss Spielman’s complaint:
In a court filing Monday, the university said federal courts don’t have jurisdiction over the complaint and Spielman hasn’t met a legal burden required in such antitrust lawsuits.
Spielman “has not alleged that he sought and was denied a trademark license from Ohio State or that he was in any way precluded from exercising his own intellectual property rights by Ohio State’s contracts,” the university said.
…Spielman hasn’t alleged any “market-wide anticompetitive effect” from the university’s actions, another reason why his lawsuit should be dismissed, the university said.
Any remaining allegations should be heard by the Ohio Court of Claims, not the federal courts, the university said.
That’s only the perspective from Ohio State’s side, of course, and Spielman’s lawyer told Welsh-Huggins he’s disappointed the school is pushing for dismissal “instead of trying to resolve the underlying claims.” However, it does sound like the university is making efforts to try to resolve some of Spielman’s complaints (particularly those about the stadium banners he and other former athletes are featured on, which are sponsored by Honda; that’s caused problems for Spielman given his long-standing endorsement relationship with a local Mazda dealership).
Athletic director Gene Smith told the AP they discussed that issue for months before the lawsuit was filed (Spielman has said he filed the lawsuit because those discussions weren’t getting far), but added that “The filing of the lawsuit does not change our commitment to seeking a resolution of the banner issue.”
As per why this matters? Well, if the lawsuit is successful, especially with a large class (and a large class is definitely possible, given how many former NCAA athletes have had schools use their appearances without paying them), it could become a big deal for college athletics. That’s what Spielman said he hopes for back in July:
“It’s not just at Ohio State. This is going to affect everybody, and every university, and how they do business. And we want Ohio State to step up and take the lead and set a precedent in how to partner with the former players in a way that benefits us all. It can be done. It’s not that difficult.”
Judging by Ohio State’s response here, though, it looks like the university’s not going to partner with players the way Spielman wants without a legal fight. We’ll see what the judge decides on their request to dismiss the suit, and where this goes from here.