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College sports programs and their marketing use of athletes

Student athletes who play football for the Ohio State Buckeyes know what it's like to be accorded superstar status on a campus where the gridiron is almost a church of sorts.

Unquestionably, Division 1 football in Columbus is a major draw, with the Buckeyes aura additionally extending to all corners of the state and in many pockets across the country.

That means many millions of marketing bucks for the university through ticket sales and broadcasting rights.

And from this source as well: the marketing of past and present athletes, which is a similar reality at other football-hyped schools nationally (in Southern California, USC and UCLA certainly come to mind).

Not everyone is a fan of that.

Take Chris Spielman, for example, a former OSU football standout who went on to a storied professional career and is now a broadcaster.

In fact, Spielman sees images of ex-players -- including himself -- hanging on banners linked with big-name advertisers and additionally adorned on clothing sold in retail outlets across Ohio, and he seethes.

He is angered, he says, because no one ever asked for permission to commercially exploit his image or paid him any money for the privilege of doing so. Spielman recently filed a federal antitrust class action lawsuit against OSU and various companies using athletes' likenesses, seeking damages on behalf of class plaintiffs and demanding a stop to what his complaint terms "unjust and monopolistic behaviors."

The school is seeking to dismiss the filing, contending that it is not a federal matter and that Spielman lacks so-called standing (a personal stake grounded in injury) to bring a case.

Spielman strongly rejects that argument, saying that the use of his name and image in any commercial capacity is solely within his discretion as "a basic human right."

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