More Consternation (and Lawsuits) Over Profits From Athletes' Likenesses

August 8, 2013

What it all will eventually amount to is far from clear. But the agitation over the perception that colleges and the National Collegiate Athletic Association -- and pretty much all parties but athletes themselves -- profit from the sale of merchandise bearing the likenesses of players continues to grow.

USA Today reported Wednesday on the filing of another lawsuit by former players against two photography companies, arguing that they "conspire with numerous colleges and universities that participate in the NCAA … to market and sell thousands of photos of active and former collegiate athletes without offering compensation to or obtaining consent from these student-athletes." The lawsuit is the latest in a string related to the use of players' images in video games and other profitable enterprises.

And the sports Twitterati and blogosphere continued to explode Wednesday with discussion prompted by Jay Bilas, the ESPN men's basketball commentator, who noted in a series of Twitter posts that the NCAA website's own store sells jerseys that lack players' names, in line with NCAA rules that bar the sale of equipment that identify specific athletes. But Bilas noted that punching the names of certain players into the search engine on the ShopNCAASports.com site brings up jerseys with those players' colors and numbers. Excoriating the NCAA's hypocrisy, Bilas's stream of tweets ended by suggesting that if you punched "NCAA Executive Committee" in the search engine, the image that would show up was of a group of clowns.

Within a short time, the NCAA had disabled the website's search function.

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