Fox Settles $30 Million Muhammad Ali Lawsuit

(CN) – The company that owns the likeness of Muhammad Ali  and the Fox Broadcasting Company settled a $30 million lawsuit Monday that alleged the TV network used film footage of the boxing great to promote the 2017 Super Bowl without permission.

The three-minute video, which was shown just before the start of the game, shows film footage of Ali and transitions from his boxing career to the images of NFL superstars like Vince Lombardi and Joe Montana.

Muhammad Ali Enterprises argued in its complaint in federal court in San Francisco that the video was “far more than a tribute” and served only as an advertisement for the football game.

“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 complaint 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 alleged that the network failed to ask permission to use the boxing legend’s likeness and sought $30 million plus punitive damages for Fox’s unauthorized usage of Ali.

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

The complaint said that Ali’s image was exploited by Fox.

“For many athletes, the most valuable asset they own – due to their lifetime of work and accomplishment – is their right of publicity,” the complaint said. “To allow someone else to exploit those rights without authorization or compensation would constitute a confiscation that would deprive an athlete of any control over the use of their identity, including the ability to monetize the value of the use of their identity by license or assignment.”

In a hearing in May under U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu, Fox attorney Nathan Siegel with Davis Wright Tremaine in San Francisco argued that the video was an “editorial” and protected by the First Amendment, rather than commercial speech which is more limited.

No details were released on the terms of the settlement.

MAE was represented by Fred Sperling of Schiff Hardin in San Francisco.

Ali died in June 2016 at the age of 74, eight months before the video ran on TV.

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