Fox Faces $30M Suit Over Muhammad Ali Super Bowl Promo

(CN) – The corporate entity that owns the intellectual-property rights of Muhammad Ali claims in a federal lawsuit that Fox, without permission, used the boxing legend’s likeness in a promotional video that aired immediately before last season’s Super Bowl.

Muhammad Ali Enterprises LLC sued Fox Broadcasting Company in Chicago federal court on Tuesday, alleging false endorsement and violation of the Illinois Right of Publicity Act.

MAE seeks $30 million plus punitive damages, and is represented by Frederick Sperling with Schiff Hardin in Chicago.

According to the complaint, Fox aired a three-minute promotional video for its broadcast of Super Bowl LI in February immediately before the game.

“The video begins with a narrator who says, ‘Walk with me. Walk with me as I confront greatness’ while the viewer sees the back of a boxer meant to be Ali, wearing a robe that says ‘The Greatest. The Lip.’ The viewer sees actual film footage of Ali, as the viewer hears Ali shouting, ‘I am the Greatest!’ The narrator continues, again imploring, “Walk with me. I can show you what it means to be the greatest,’” the complaint states.

The lawsuit continues, “Throughout the video, it refers to and depicts Ali, following him through his boxing career and highlighting his controversies and personal achievements, including his principled stance as a conscientious objector and his lighting the torch at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. The video informs or reminds the viewer of the characteristics and accomplishments that made Ali ‘The Greatest,’ repeatedly defining ‘greatness’ with examples Ali set in his life.”

MAE claims the promo video then transitions to imagery of National Football League legends, including Joe Montana, John Elway, Vince Lombardi, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and others. The company says this shows that the video was “far more than a tribute” to the boxing legend.

“The video uses Ali to define greatness and ultimately to compare the NFL legends to Ali and thus to define them and the Super Bowl as ‘greatness’ too,” the lawsuit states. “At the conclusion of the video, the screen displays the logo of Super Bowl LI and concludes with another screen that includes Muhammad Ali’s name and the years of his birth and death.”

MAE alleges Fox never asked for or received permission to use Ali’s name and image “or to imply his endorsement” of Fox broadcasts, including the Super Bowl.

“Fox could have sold the three minutes it used for its promotional video to other advertisers for $30 million,” according to the complaint.

A Fox spokesperson did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment.

Ali died last year at the age of 74. His birth name was Cassius Clay, but he changed it to Muhammad Ali when he converted to Islam in 1964.

%d bloggers like this: