Chris Spielman was working as a broadcaster at one of his favorite places on earth, Ohio Stadium, athletic and social and spiritual epicenter of his alma mater, the Ohio State University, when he received a text message from a friend. Attached was a photo of a poster. There was Spielman, wearing his old No. 36 in the scarlet and gray, bent at the knees looking for someone to hit, his last name scrawled down the right side of the frame. And there, underneath the poster that hung beneath the stands at the stadium, was one word: “Honda.”
“I said, ‘Hmmmm,’” Spielman said. “I don’t recall signing anything or talking to anybody about this. It’s my picture, my name — with a giant logo.”
And so here we are, with Spielman — who embodies Ohio State, who loves Ohio State — suing Ohio State.
It is surprising on the face of it. “I’m humbled and honored when Ohio State uses my image,” Spielman said Monday in a telephone interview.
But look from Spielman’s vantage, and there are so many elements that are wholly predictable, because college sports don’t just chew up and spit out the athletes, they go back and pick over the bones even decades later.
Put plainly, Ohio State wanted to use memories conjured up by Spielman’s image — and those of other former Buckeyes, displayed throughout the stadium — to make money. It did not want to share that money with the people who put the university in position to partner with not only Honda, but other corporate partners — Nike and IMG — also named in the suit.
Hey, Buckeye fans, remember this guy, this All-American linebacker from 1984-87, winner of the Lombardi Award as the nation’s best linebacker or lineman? Makes you warm inside, doesn’t it? Can I show you to an Accord?
(Further complication: Because Spielman can trade off his own image, he has a 20-year relationship with a Columbus car dealer that sells Mazdas and Subarus. That made for an awkward phone call, given the Honda banner and all.)
It’s just seems silly. But it’s also important. Important for the Buckeyes who would benefit should Spielman win. And important going forward for college athletes across the country, current and former.
In the 35-page class action complaint filed Friday in federal court, Spielman’s attorney, Brian Duncan, writes that by cutting out Spielman and other former Buckeyes, Ohio State, IMG, Nike and Honda…