CHICAGO (CN) – Former NFL linebacker Brian Urlacher says a Florida hair restoration center is cashing in on his name without his permission, falsely suggesting online that he endorses its services.
Urlacher, who played for the Chicago Bears from 2000 to 2013 before retiring at age 35, sued the Boca Raton-based Charles Medical Group, or CMG, on Monday in Cook County Circuit Court for using his name and picture on its website.
The former linebacker does endorse another hair restoration company, Restoration Holdings LLC, saying he chose the transplant clinic in 2014 after it was “carefully vetted.”
“There are thousands of companies that offer hair rejuvenation replacement and/or restoration services throughout the United States. Only one was chosen by plaintiff, former National Football League All-Pro middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, as deserving his endorsement,” the lawsuit states. “Not only did Urlacher serve as RHL’s spokesman, he became a client when he himself underwent a restoration procedure.”
Urlacher held “one of the elite and most storied positions on one of the most famous organizations in NFL history,” he says, and “the Urlacher name and face became one of the most iconic in sports.”
That recognition has translated to success in the celebrity endorsement game.
“Urlacher’s name and persona have developed enormous commercial value and secondary meaning in promoting products as a result of the public’s widespread knowledge and admiration of him,” his complaint says.
Restoration Holdings saw an uptick in business after his hair transplant and endorsement were reported by the media and, the complaint alleges, the “defendants have attempted illegally to steal and cash in on Urlacher’s name and this success.”
In January of last year, CMG started using Urlacher’s name and picture on its website and embedding his name in source code to intercept customers searching online for the company he endorses, according to his lawsuit.
“Urlacher has been damaged by defendants, whose unauthorized advertisements infringe upon Urlacher’s right of publicity and falsely conveys Urlacher’s endorsement of defendants’ products and services,” the complaint states.
Urlacher, represented by David A. Rammelt of Reed Smith LLP in Chicago, is suing CMG and Glenn Charles M.D. for misappropriation and violations of the Illinois Right of Publicity Act.
“As a business, the licensing of Urlacher’s identity is just as important to him as his professional football career,” the former player says.
CMG did not return a request for comment Tuesday.