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Monday, July 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

NFL Hall of Famer Blows the Whistle

PHILADELPHIA (CN) - NFL Hall of Fame running back Steve Van Buren claims a trading card company used his name and likeness on football cards without his consent, and "incredibly," released a card that "contains a swatch of a canceled check stolen from Van Buren" as "purported player memorabilia." Van Buren sued Panini America, successor to Donruss Playoff, in Federal Court.

Van Buren rushed out of the backfield for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1944 to 1951, collecting three consecutive rushing titles and leading the Eagles to two championships. The Sporting News called him one of the 100 greatest players of all time.

Sportswriter Ray Didinger, author of "The Eagles Encyclopedia," called Van Buren the "greatest Eagles running back ever." And Panini America targeted him as a "player of value," according to the complaint.

Van Buren claims that Donruss released three different trading cards bearing his name and likeness without his consent in 2006.

After he objected, Van Buren says, says, the company acquired a retroactive license for the three cards.

But in 2007 and 2009, Van Buren says, the defendant released cards bearing his name, likeness and signature without a license.

And in 2009, he says, the defendant released a special "Classic Cuts" card series which "contained swatches of stolen canceled checks signed by Van Buren as purported player memorabilia."

Donruss has a history of producing cards using images and materials without authorization, and has faced legal action from both Major League Baseball and - in March this year - the Estate of Gene Kelly sued it for unauthorized use, according to the complaint.

"Like defendant's Classic Cuts trading card, which purports to contain a swatch of player 'memorabilia' in the form of a signed canceled check, the Gene Kelly trading cards purport to contain a swatch of material worn by Gene Kelly," the complaint states. "The recent spate of lawsuits against Donruss and Defendant illustrate a fundamental disregard for the rights of those they seek to exploit through the Donruss trading card products."

Van Buren seeks punitive damages for false endorsement, violation of the right of publicity and fraud. He is represented by Hara Jacobs with Ballard Spahr.

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