Former Ohio St. LB Chris Spielman sues school over use of ex-athletes' likenesses

(Getty Images)

Former Ohio State and Detroit Lions linebacker Chris Spielman has filed a lawsuit vs. the school on behalf of numerous former players regarding the school’s use of their images.

Spielman filed the lawsuit in a federal court in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday. The Associated Press notes a series of Honda-sponsored banners hung around Ohio Stadium with former players on them. Some of those players, including two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin and former safety Mike Doss, are included in the player group of the suit.

Honda and Nike, the official apparel partner of Ohio State athletics, are named in the suit. From the AP: 

The lawsuit accuses the university and the companies of “unjust and monopolistic behaviors” and asks for compensation above $75,000, as is typical in such complaints, while noting Ohio State makes millions in revenue from merchandising programs involving ex-athletes.

“Former OSU student-athletes do not share in these revenues even though they have never given informed consent to the widespread and continued commercial exploitation of their images,” the lawsuit said.

Spielman was a first-round pick of the Detroit Lions after a standout career at Ohio State (Getty)

Ohio State said in a statement that it was looking at the particulars of the suit.

“We immensely value our relationships with all of our former student athletes,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said. “Ohio State is aware of the lawsuit that Chris Spielman has filed, and we are in the process of reviewing it.”

Spielman told the AP that he would donate his proceeds from the suit — if there are any — to the athletic department.

“My concern is about the exploitation of all former players across this nation who do not have the platform to stand up for themselves while universities and corporations benefit financially by selling their name and likenesses without their individual consent,” Spielman said.

Spielman’s lawsuit comes during the same week that the NCAA Football video game for the 2017 season would have likely been released. The EA Sports game no longer exists after a settlement following a lawsuit regarding the usage of players’ likenesses. While the game didn’t use player names, the ratings and physical characteristics of players in the game were designed to mimic real life and former players.

NCAA rules prohibit current players from receiving royalties from the use of their likeness. That rule has been the center of legal action, including the famous Ed O’Bannon suit. O’Bannon added EA Sports to his suit in 2010.

O’Bannon’s suit resulted in a nearly $210 million payout from the NCAA to settle claims from former athletes regarding the usage of their likenesses.

Spielman was an All-American in 1986 and 1987 and finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1987. He made four Pro Bowls in a 10-year NFL career and became a broadcaster after his playing days were done. He moved from ESPN to Fox Sports in 2016 and is an analyst for the network’s NFL and college football coverage.

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of Dr. Saturday and From the Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!