Basketball legend Bill Russell, former star center for the Boston Celtics, has filed suit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association, accusing it of using his likeness from his college playing days without paying him or seeking his consent. The Complaint is the latest to claim the NCAA violates federal antitrust laws by keeping former student basketball and football athletes from receiving compensation for the commercial use of their images and likenesses. The Association has denied wrongdoing in all of those cases.
Electronic Arts Inc., the second-largest U.S. video-game maker, is also named as a Defendant in the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Oakland, Calif. Russell accuses that Defendant of using his image in a “Tournament of Legends” feature on an NCAA basketball video game. Russell, who led the University of San Francisco to NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956, alleges in the Complaint that the NCAA sells $150 videos of the team’s championship games. At least 54 clips featuring Russell are available through the website of the NCAA’s for-profit business partner, and photos of him are available through an NCAA online store, according to the Complaint. Russell is seeking a court order blocking further sale of the videos and video games, plus disgorgement of profits from them and unspecified damages.
As most all sports fans will recall, Bill Russell won 11 NBA titles with the Celtics and was a five-time NBA Most Valuable Player. He is second on the career list for rebounds with 21,620, trailing only Wilt Chamberlain, his rival throughout the 1960s. Jon King is the lawyer who represents Mr. Russell in his lawsuit and he may well be on to something. It will be very interesting to see how this lawsuit works out.
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