- By Marcus Hartman
Chris Spielman, one of the most prominent and well-known Ohio State football players of the last 30 years, made headlines last week when he filed a lawsuit against his alma mater in federal court.
Here are five things to know about the action:
1. Spielman starred at Ohio State from 1984-87.
The Massillon native made a school-record 283 solo tackles during a two-time All-America career that also included the 1987 Lombardi Award. He went on to play 10 seasons in the NFL with the Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills.
Spielman has been a local media personality in Columbus for much of his life since retiring. He is also a national analyst formerly at ESPN and now FOX Sports.
He also became well-known during his wife Stefanie’s public battles with breast cancer. She passed away in 2009, but the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research remains a major part of the OSU medical center’s fight against the disease.
2. He is charging Ohio State and licensing partner IMG with illegally using his likeness and those of other former Buckeyes for marketing purposes without compensating them.
Spielman told The Columbus Dispatch he has issues with the university and IMG including Honda in a promotional campaign at Ohio Stadium featuring banners with pictures of former players.
“You can slap your name and logo on banners all you want, but as soon as you slap a corporate logo on there I have rights, in my opinion, to say yes or no, or to negotiate that,” he said.
Spielman, who hopes the suit will gain class-action status, also takes issue with a series of throwback jerseys from Nike that features former players.
3. Spielman says he is not seeking personal financial gain.
He told the Associated Press in a statement, “My share in any recovery will be donated directly to the athletic department of The Ohio State University.
“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.”
4. Another beloved Buckeye who has remained closely tied to the university is among the suit’s supporters.
Archie Griffin, the two-time Heisman Trophy winner, former OSU assistant athletics director, former head of the school’s alumni association and former Bengal, told the Associated Press he supports Spielman’s action, though he is not plaintiff in the suit.
“There is no greater supporter of collegiate athletics than me, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunities provided to me as a former student athlete,” Griffin told the AP. “However, the recent landscape of collegiate athletics has changed, and these institutions and corporations have a duty to treat all former athletes fairly.”
5. There is precedent for players’ winning this type of suit, and this could establish more.
Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann notes this is the first lawsuit of this type since the NCAA lost a class-action suit headlined by former UCLA star Ed O’Bannon.
In the O’Bannon case, a federal judge ruled the NCAA had wronged current and former football and men’s basketball players in Division I by denying them the right to negotiate the use of their identities, violating antitrust laws in the process.
A victory for Spielman could strengthen that precedent because this case will be decided in a different district (the Sixth) than O’Bannon.
A win or a loss could also lead to the Supreme Court of the United States getting involved. It passed on taking up appeals in the O’Bannon case, so that ruling is only binding in the Ninth Circuit, where it was heard and decided.