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Nike Added to Class Action Over Use of Student-Athletes’ Images

The former Ohio State University football player who filed a class action against the school this summer for allegedly using players’ images and likenesses without permission removed the school and added Nike to an amended lawsuit.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) – The former Ohio State University football player who filed a class action against the school this summer for allegedly using players’ images and likenesses without permission removed the school and added Nike to an amended lawsuit.

Former OSU Buckeyes linebacker Chris Spielman filed a 50-page second amended complaint Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio federal court. He is represented by attorneys from BKD Legal, Wesp Barwell and Kohrman Jackson & Kranz.

Spielman, who played college football from 1984 to 1987, claims OSU entered into licensing partnerships that unlawfully utilized his image and those of the proposed class members.

“Defendants have unreasonably and illegally restrained trade in order to commercially exploit former players previously subject to their control, with such exploitation affecting those individuals well into their post-collegiate lives,” the lawsuit states. “The conduct of defendants, and any and all co-conspirators, is blatantly anticompetitive and exclusionary, as it diminishes, negates, or wholly wipes out in total the future ownership interests of former players in their own images - rights that all other members of society enjoy - even long after student-athletes have ceased attending and/or participating in applicable intercollegiate events and/or programs.”

The original complaint only named IMG College LLC, Ohio State and unknown persons and companies. Newly added Nike is a multinational corporation that develops and sells footwear, apparel, equipment and other services. Another new defendant, Endeavor LLC, is the parent company of IMG College.

Spielman also wants to expand the prospective class to include all current and former student-athletes living in the United States who, within the last 10 years, competed on any football program in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision for any school that has or had a licensing or marketing contract with IMG College LLC or its affiliates.

He argues the amendments to his complaint are necessary because he was recently made aware of certain “university multi-media rights” contracts between IMG and OSU. He says IMG and the newly added companies have or had similar contracts with other colleges that have football programs.

“These similar contracts, marketing agreements, and/or licenses with other schools, colleges and universities may have foreclosed prospective class members from receiving compensation in connection with the commercial exploitation of their names, images, and likenesses following their intercollegiate athletic competition careers,” according to his motion to amend.

The former Buckeye filed the original complaint in July, asking a federal judge to order a permanent injunction prohibiting the commercial marketing, sale and use of current and former OSU football players’ names and likeness with corporate sponsors. He also wants the “offending products” – including banners, jerseys, pictures and other marketing materials – confiscated and destroyed.

He argues IMG, Nike and Endeavor are taking part in an unreasonable restraint of trade in violation of the Sherman Act. Spielman also alleges a Lanham Act violation because class members did not consent to the use of their names, images and likeness.

“In light of the broadened prospective class, the receipt of the Contract, new defendants, the removal of the Ohio State in his proposed Second Amended Complaint, and because justice so requires, Mr. Spielman respectfully submits that leave should be granted in accordance with Rule 15 in order for him to amend and supplement his First Amended Complaint,” the motion to amend states.

Nike and Endeavor did not immediately respond Wednesday to emails requesting comment.

In a statement provided by one of his attorneys, Spielman said, "I love college football and the ultimate goal is for us to create an atmosphere where universities, corporations, and former players can all benefit."

After college, Spielman went on to play in the National Football League for 12 years and ended his career in 1999 with the Cleveland Browns. He still holds the OSU team record for most total tackles in a game, according to his complaint, and is the university’s all-time leader in solo tackles.

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