Former NBA Star Bill Russell Sues NCAA for Using his Image Without Consent

October 6, 2011

William “Bill” Russell, capsule the former National Basketball Association (NBA) star center for the Boston Celtics is on the warpath after accusing the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in an antitrust complaint of selling videos using his likeness without paying him or seeking his consent.

The lawsuit is the latest to claim the NCAA violates federal antitrust laws by keeping former student basketball and football athletes from receiving compensation for the commercial use of their images and likeness. The association has denied wrongdoing in those cases.

Electronic Arts Inc., cheap the second-largest U.S. video game maker, medstore is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Russell accuses it of using his image in a “Tournament of Legends” feature on an NCAA basketball video game.

Russell, who led the University of San Francisco to NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956, said in the complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Oakland, California, that the association sells $150 videos of the team’s championship games. At least 54 video clips featuring him are available through the website of the NCAA’s for-profit business partner and photos of him through an NCAA on-line photo store, according to the complaint.

Russell seeks a court order blocking further sale of the videos, plus a share of the profits from the videos and unspecified damages.

Russell’s complaint will probably be consolidated with a pending lawsuit brought by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon on behalf of other former NCAA players against the association and Redwood City, California-based Electronic Arts, according to the complaint.

Jon King, an attorney for the former players, said in an e-mail: “Bill Russell, one of the greatest NCAA, NBA and Olympic basketball players in history, joins the lawsuit brought by Ed O’Bannon alleging that the NCAA has violated federal antitrust law by unlawfully foreclosing former Division I men’s basketball and football players from receiving any compensation related to the commercial use of their images and likenesses.”