Jordan told reporters, “This shows I will protect my name to the fullest. It’s my name and I worked hard for it, and I’m not just going to let someone take it.”
According to Jordan’s attorneys, the use of his likeness for advertising should have been valued at roughly $10 million, whereas Dominick’s attorney Steven Mandel argued that the Jordan’s legal team is overvaluing the amount, and that the jury should award Jordan $126,900 for his likeness in the ad.
A golf-clap round of applause is due to Michael Jordan, the greatest of all-time in more courts than one. The notorious competitor won an $8.9 million jury award on Friday in Chicago federal court in a lawsuit his attorneys filed against the now-defunct supermarket chain Dominick’s Finer Foods, which had been owned by Safeway before closing all stores by 2013. The offense in question was an unauthorized advertisement in a 2009 commemorative issue of Sports Illustrated congratulating the six-time NBA champion for being inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. The ad also included a coupon for a two dollar discount on steaks. Only two people redeemed the coupon due to the fact that the commemorative issue was considered a collector’s item and cutting the coupon out of the magazine would have significantly decreased its value. For its part, Safeway purchased the Dominick’s chains for $1.2 billion in 1998. The settlement rubs extra salt in the wound for the ill-fated venture. After the jury’s announcement, Jordan told reporters, “This shows I will protect my name to the fullest. It’s my name and I worked hard for it, and I’m not just going to let someone take it.” Jordan added, “I also hope the size of the monetary reward will deter others from using someone else’s identity and believe they will only pay a small penalty.”
According to Jordan’s attorneys, the use of his likeness for advertising should have been valued at roughly $10 million, whereas Dominick’s attorney Steven Mandel argued that Jordan’s legal team is overvaluing the amount, and that the jury should award Jordan $126,900 for the error. Jordan’s agent David Faulk told the court that Jordan was the “best-known celebrity in the world,” with papers in the case reporting that the former athlete earned $480 million from Nike alone from 2000 to 2012. Depaul University instructor and branding expert Ron Culp said, “It’s critically important for individuals and companies to do everything possible to protect their brands. They have their own vision of what they will do and who they will affiliate with, and they have to be very cautious to make sure it’s consistent with how they are projecting their brand image.” It is obvious that Jordan takes his branding as seriously as anybody in the world, having spent for five years worth of litigation in the matter. Jordan’s attorneys are also suing another grocer, Jewel, for also running an advertisement honoring the basketball star in the Sports Illustrated issue.
True, it may be Jordan’s legal right to pursue the matter in the courts just like I have the legal right not to flush the toilet after taking care of business. I could only imagine the outrage I would feel if somebody took out a full-page ad congratulating my accomplishments, or even gave me a double-like on Facebook and Twitter for that matter. To his credit, Jordan did say he planned on donating the proceeds to charity, adding “It was never about the money.” No, it was about cold-hearted revenge, as the matter could have easily been resolved with a mea culpa and a little forgiveness for an honest mistake. Given the failure of the CHICAGO-based supermarket and the complementary nature of the advertisement, the incident provided Jordan a chance to grow as a person and let it go, or at least not appear to be so vindictive about it. Just like when he used his hall of fame speech in 2009 to trash nearly everyone who came to honor him over petty reasons, including his high school coach, Jordan’s competitiveness prevents him from seeing the bigger picture. I feel so sorry for the man, and it reminds me to be thankful that I lack the need to use every small obstacle in life to fuel my raison d’être. Gratitude is a much cleaner-burning fuel.
ESPN – Darren Rovell
Sydney Morning Herald – Kim Janssen, Corilyn Shropshire and Wendy Donahue
Yahoo News/Associated Press – Michael Tarm