Former Ohio State Buckeye and former ESPN analyst Chris Spielman moved to Fox last year, and filed a lawsuit he filed against Ohio State this past week. Spielman’s lawsuit centers on the school using his likeness for commercial gain without permission, specifically on banners in the stadium and gameday programs. He told Fox Sports Radio’s Jonas Knox and Dan Beyer (filling in for Doug Gottlieb on The Doug Gottlieb Show) Thursday that this started from finding out there were stadium banners with his likeness that were covered with corporate logos:
Here’s the transcript of the key part:
Beyer: “How did this come about and how long did it take for you to finally go forward with this lawsuit?”
Spielman: “Well in October, I was actually doing a game on Fox and a friend sent me a text about – there was a banner of myself and 64 other guys in Ohio Stadium, which is a name-in-likeness banner–which is all fine. Ohio State can use my name-in-likeness anyway they want to promote the university. The problem came in when that banner had a corporate logo on it–a Honda logo–and I was never involved in that conversation of ‘Hey, do you want to be a part of this Honda promotion? Maybe you don’t want to.’ Just ask me yes or no. And the problem that I had was well, wait a second–I’ve had about a 20-year relationship here in Columbus, Ohio with Mazda. And so all of a sudden I look like a hypocrite and I got to clean up the mess with Mazda because they used my name-in-likeness with a corporate logo without asking me or asking me to be involved in a relationship or partnership, and getting my permission.”
“And so, we brought this to their attention eight months ago and tried to make them give us a legitimate settlement, a negotiation for eight months, and we never got a firm offer. And so after eight months, you have to stand up and do something. And for me, this is a fight worth fighting. I think I’m fighting, in fact I know I’m fighting for the right thing, because I’ve gotten so much support from players at Ohio State, players all over the country, and quite frankly, current and past coaches all over the country, because coaches stand up for their players.”
Knox: “Chris, do you feel that players, student-athletes, whether its football, basketball, whatever – do you feel they are being taken advantage of nowadays?”
Spielman: “No, I mean not really. One thing I would like to see–there are current players named on a suit, but our suit is focusing on former players, and our goal is to partner with universities, not become adversarial with universities…Hopefully, what I’d like to see is, for example, if there is some type of maybe a savings account set up for players for when they graduate and if they get drafted and make a lot of money in the NFL, then they can give the money back to the university. Or they would have something if they want to go to graduate school, they have something to put money towards graduate school or whatever. That’s one thing that I would like to see happen, but that’s really kind of a total different discussion from what I’m taking on right now.”
Knox: “When you were in college, how lean did times get? When they talk about you didn’t have money for food, I’ve heard players say that many times before, how difficult was that for you when you were in college?”
Spielman: “Well, it’s different now, because those guys get fed and they get fed well. Once football season was over, we were taken off training table where we would have meals. I actually remember, I don’t know if you guys remember Jim Lachey, a great player for the Redskins and Raiders and Chargers (who’s now a Buckeyes’ radio analyst). Jim was a couple of years older than me and he was over at my place visiting one night, and he wanted something to eat. He went into the refrigerator, there was nothing there, so he took me to the grocery store. I’m not crying ‘Woe is me,’ believe me, but, I mean, we used to buy the 19-cent bread where you put the peanut butter on it, and when you try to spread the peanut butter, the bread would roll around the knife. But that was fine, I didn’t mind that. It’s totally different now, and guys have a different way of doing things now, and fortunately, that part of taking care of the players has caught up.”
Beyer then asks if this case has opened more cans of worms, and Spielman says “That would be a lawyer question,” then goes on to talk about how he wants to give any money he wins back to the university.
“My big issue is with the banners, because I have a current business relationship, and I’m trying to extend an olive branch in the sense that ‘I want to give you the money back because I want to be your partner.’ We can partner up and do many programs. We’ve partnered up in the past to do bobbleheads and Russian stacker dolls and that kind of thing, we’ve had those programs for former players before. But IMG now controls all the marketing, and that’s why IMG is the main defendant on the lawsuit.”
“But for the banner issue, the women’s softball team is an example. They’re big supporters of the breast cancer research fund that’s been set up in my late wife’s name here. The women’s softball team has been tremendous supporters of that. So I would like to give money to there, maybe to Tom Ryan, who’s the wrestling coach. To sports that mean something to me, or to something, you know, football gets all this money, basketball has money, maybe give it to sports that struggle and have to do their own fundraising and show the Ohio State athletic department and Ohio State that ‘I can be your partner. I want to work together.’”
“And everybody can win. The sponsors win, the university and the athletics department win, and the former players win. And fortunately, I’m in a position to do that, to give the money back. Other guys, you guys know this, there’s guys that are struggling, that need a helping hand, and this could benefit a lot of different people. 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.”
That’s certainly interesting information from Spielman, and that sheds a lot of further light on this lawsuit and what he’s hoping to accomplish with it. We’ll see how it plays out.