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Former Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman sues university over image use

Former Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman visits LanternTV’s studio in 2015

Former Ohio State All-American linebacker Chris Spielman sued his alma mater Friday, alleging the school has used the likeness of himself and other former athletes without their permission while offering no compensation in return, according to The Associated Press.

The antitrust lawsuit was filed in federal court, with Spielman representing himself as well as several former Buckeye football players. The programs the lawsuit targets includes the 64 Honda-sponsored banners that feature images of past Ohio State players around Ohio Stadium.

“This litigation is not about Chris Spielman, it is about all of the former college athletes who are unfairly being used by IMG and other corporate entities for financial gain,” Spielman said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Spielman added the purpose behind the lawsuit is not for any personal financial gain, but rather to represent former athletes whose likeness may currently be used without receiving compensation who are unable to represent themselves in a lawsuit. The former linebacker said he will donate his share of any financial compensation from the lawsuit back to Ohio State’s athletic department.

The lawsuit calls for compensation above $75,000, the AP reports.

“My hope is that this litigation will level the playing field for those affected players, and that they too can benefit from the dollars flowing into collegiate athletes,” Spielman said.

Gene Smith, Ohio State’s athletic director, said in a statement the university is aware of the lawsuit and is “in the process of reviewing it.”

“We immensely value our relationships with all of our former student athletes,” Smith said.

In a statement to the AP, Brian Duncan, Spielman’s attorney, said two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, former lineman Jim Stillwagon and former safety Mike Doss are among the athletes Spielman is suing on behalf of.

Griffin said in a statement to the AP that while he appreciated Ohio State for giving him and others the opportunity to attend the university as student-athletes, he expects Ohio State and other universities like it to treat athletes fairly.

“I am in full support of the right of former athletes to receive compensation from corporations and universities who benefit from the unauthorized use of players names and likenesses,” Griffin said. “As long as the universities and players partner together, this will be a ‘win-win’ situation for all.”

Along with Ohio State, talent management group IMG has also been named as a defendant, with both Honda and Nike being listed as co-conspirators, the AP said. Spielman and Profectus Group Inc., a new company designed to represent former college athletes, are the plaintiffs in the suit. Duncan told the AP the lawsuit came after eight months of failed negotiations.

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