Chris Spielman is suing Ohio State… er, excuse me, The Ohio State University.
That’s why it was considered such stunning news Friday that Spielman is the plaintiff in a class-action suit filed in federal court in Columbus against Ohio State University on behalf of all former and current Buckeyes football players.
“I feel sick about it,” Spielman told The Dispatch. “But I believe in doing the right thing. I teach my kids to stand up for what’s right. Players have a right. If somebody wanted to endorse you, don’t you think you have a right to say yes or no, or to negotiate? That’s a common-sense thing. We want to be partners. We don’t want to be adversaries.”
… The lawsuit takes issue with 64 banners hung in Ohio Stadium featuring players’ likenesses and a corporate logo for Honda on them, but it also mentions jerseys, photographs, signatures and more.
Spielman also said attaching his name to Honda puts him in a difficult situation given a separate sponsorship deal he has with a local Mazda dealership.
Spielman said he is fine with Ohio State using his name and likeness for non-commercial purposes.
“You can slap your name and logo on banners all you want,” he said. “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.”
Sounds reasonable, right? (Spielman has already pledged to donate any damages he obtains as a result of the suit back to the athletic department.) Yet, after eight months of negotiations, the school refused to back down. In a post-O’Bannon environment, that’s plain stubborn.
Spielman said he has gotten the support of numerous players, including two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, as well as former OSU head coach Earle Bruce.
“I’ve gotten a ton of texts from former players,” Spielman said. “Somebody has to say (to Ohio State), ‘Just ask us, and let’s be partners. Let’s work as a team.’ That’s what Ohio State taught me.”
Griffin said he supports the rights of former athletes to receive compensation from corporations and universities that benefit from the use of players’ names and likenesses.
“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 said in a statement. “However, the recent landscape of collegiate athletics has changed, and these institutions and corporations have a duty to treat all former athletes fairly.”
Ohio State’s going to spend a bunch of money on lawyers and get a giant PR black eye in the process, and for what here? Strange hill you find worth dying on, dudes.