Straight-talking Chris Spielman is the first to acknowledge that actions have consequences. Sue your alma mater, and anything can happen, including your legacy taking an unexpected turn. Not necessarily a wrong turn. Just something not immediately anticipated.
That is where the former Ohio State linebacker is after filing a lawsuit in federal court on Friday that pits the 51-year-old Fox NFL analyst against the 147-year-old university on behalf of all current and former Buckeyes football players. At issue is whether Ohio State should be able to use current and former Buckeyes’ identities for profit without first negotiating those rights with the former players.
But the lawsuit could have further impact, including whether a current or former athlete owns the rights to his name and likeness despite having signed a waiver to forfeit such rights.
Suddenly, Spielman’s reputation as a run-through-the-wall linebacker could get a run for its money. Depending on how the case plays out, he could go down as a pioneering legal champion for athletes’ rights.
The stakes are potentially explosive, extending beyond both Ohio State and the NCAA. Does your high school-age daughter deserve to be compensated for appearing in a volleyball tournament sponsored by a national restaurant chain? That is the kind of reach the Spielman case could have.
At minimum, Spielman’s lawsuit is another wake-up call that current and former college athletes increasingly are unwilling to sit by as the NCAA, universities, administrators and coaches make money off the players’ talents.
“Generally, in the future at the collegiate level, the university and NCAA have to be a lot more careful how they go about dealing with player rights, whether in context of scholarships or licensing player images,” said James W. Quinn, a New York lawyer specializing in sports and entertainment law.
Specifically, it is too soon to predict the impact of the Spielman lawsuit. For starters, there is a…