A jury in a Chicago court awarded basketball legend, Michael Jordan, $8.9 million after he sued a grocery chain for using his identity to advertise their product without consent.
In 2009, Safeway, who owned now-defunct Chicago based supermarket chain Dominicks, placed an ad in Sports Illustrated celebrating Michael Jordan’s induction into the Hall of Fame. The ad contained a $2 off steak coupon that unfortunately was redeemed only twice. According to NYpost.com, the post included “Michael Jordan … You are a cut above.”
A trial this week determined Jordan’s market value for the ad. Safeway said they owed Jordan $126,900 for using his name in the ad. Sports economists Andrew Zimbalist, however, affirmed Jordan’s market value for the ad was $10 million.
During deliberation, jurors sent a note to the judge saying, “We need a calculator.” After six hours, jurors calculated Safeway owed Jordan $8.9 million.
According to Espn.go.com, after the jury delivered the verdict, Michael Jordan told reporters:
I’m pleased with today’s verdict. No one — whether or not they are a public figure — should have to worry about their identity being used without their permission. The case was not about the money as I plan to donate the proceeds to charity. It was about honesty and integrity. I hope this case sends a clear message, both here in the United States and around the world, that I will continue to be vigilant about protecting my name and identity. 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. ( http://goo.gl/qyCJ5v)
Was Jordan right or wrong for taking action against Dominicks?
Jordan’s actions were the right ones. Dominicks profited from the advertisement using Jordan’s name in the ad. Yes, only two people redeem the coupon, but how many people decided to purchase the steak with the thought in mind that it was a steak basketball Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan eats? With Jordan being worth $1 billion, the question is how much revenue did Dominicks make for using Jordan’s name? Jordan worked over 30 years to build his name and brand, and Dominick’s was not with him “shooting in the gym”. Dominicks was collecting checks off Jordan’s name and that calls for a liable suit.
In 1998, Safeway bought Dominick’s for $1.2 billion, but closed the stores in 2013. Many people question why Jordan would go after a company that went out of business. One might ask why Jordan will seek to get money that he clearly doesn’t need from a company that works to feed their families. The simple answer is business; Jordan does not care about whether the business provides a living for many Americans to survive because Jordan wants to protect his identity.
This lawsuit sets forth a precedent that showed that Jordan would not tolerate anyone using his name for advertisement purposes without his permission. If Jordan did not take a stand, other business would think its okay to do the same thing. Other athletes should admire his actions, or just anyone willing to do whatever is required to protect their identity. Jordan illustrated it was never about the money because we all know he does not need the $8.9 million. Jordan claims he will donate the money to charities in Chicago. The same city he brought six championships too, and the same city where the six jurors came from. Of course, the same jurors who identified themselves as Michael Jordan fans, by requesting pictures and autographs with him after the trial would indeed rule in Jordan’s favor over Safeway.
The nail on the coffin in regards to this case was the text “Michael Jordan… You are a cut above.” In my opinion to honor Jordan’s achievements, the ad in Sports Illustrated was to show respect, but to mention his name I thought Jordan liked the steak Dominicks were advertising. Jordan has a history of suing companies for using his identity without his permission, but this one sets the bar and a company shouldn’t be stupid enough to use his identity again unless they have $8.9 million laying around somewhere.