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March Madness: The Likeness of Legends

Posted by: Nicole Briggs on March 30, 2012

As you tune into the March Madness games, what do you think your favorite college athletics should receive for their hard work on the court, their image, and likeness? As you mull over that question, consider this case.

In the fall of 2011, former Boston Celtic and University of San Francisco athlete, Bill Russell, who led University of San Francisco to the NCAA championship in 1955 and 1956, joined forces with former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon on the behalf of other former NCAA players to sue Electronic Arts and the NCAA, as covered by Bloomberg News.

The former college basketball stars accused the NCAA and Electronic Arts for “violating federal antitrust law by unlawfully foreclosing former Division I men’s basketball and football players from receiving any compensation related to the commercial use of their images and likeness,” stated Jon King, an attorney for the former players, to Bloomberg.

O’Bannon and several other former NCAA athletes have challenged the NCAA's right to profit from the legend’s likeness in perpetuity, without seeking consent and without compensation. This has allowed the NCAA to take classic games and images and either replay them on the Internet or sell the rebroadcast rights to television, such as ESPN Classics. In a deal involving the NCAA and Electronics Arts, Electronics Arts has generated more than $500 million in sales on NCAA college football and basketball games over the course of a six-year contract, reported by Mark Fainaru-Wada of ESPN’s Enterprise Unit.

Nicole Briggs is a Consultant for Interbrand New York

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