Suit filed about colleges selling athlete photos
by Steve Berkowitz, USA TODAY Sports
Lawyers representing former Arizona State and Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller in a lawsuit concerning the use of college athletes’ names and likenesses have opened another case on the topic.
They have filed a proposed class-action suit in a federal court in California against two companies involved with helping schools market and sell athletes’ photographs and associated merchandise such as frames and calendars through their athletics websites. The suit’s named plaintiff is Yahchaaroah Lightbourne, a former football player for Texas-El Paso.
This is at least the fourth case related to college athletes’ names and likenesses being pursued in a federal court. In addition to Keller, former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon and former Rutgers quarterback Ryan Hart are named plaintiffs in cases against the NCAA and other defendants.
Lightbourne’s complaint, filed in June, alleges that the two photo companies “conspire with numerous colleges and universities that participate in the NCAA … to market and sell thousands of photos of active and former collegiate athletes without offering compensation to or obtaining consent from these student-athletes.”
It claims the schools allowed the photo companies to use the athletes’ pictures and the schools’ trademarks “despite strict NCAA rules which explicitly prohibit NCAA member institutions from commercially exploiting the names, images, and likenesses of NCAA student-athletes.”
NCAA rules say neither athletes nor school cannot accept money or permit the use of athlete’s name or picture “to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind.”
“This is another example of the NCAA and certain of its schools profiting off the images of its student-athletes,” said Steve Berman, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said Wednesday. “To us, this is a blatant exploitation of these kids that violates their rights to control the use of their names, images and likenesses.”
Berman is helping to represent Keller in his lawsuit against the NCAA, video game manufacturer Electronic Arts and the nation’s leading collegiate licensing and marketing firm, Collegiate Licensing Co.