Supervalu Slam Dunks Jordan

Supervalu Slam Dunks Jordan

The basketball legend can’t get paid when businesses congratulate him publicly.

In 2009 Michael Jordan filed a $5 million lawsuit against Supervalu Inc.  and its Chicago subsidiary Jewel-Osco Stores for publishing an image of his namesake basketball shoes in a special issue of Sports Illustrated.

Jordan’s argument stated that by attaching Jewel’s logo and slogan to his image, it was trading on his fame for commercial gain.

Supervalu argued that since the page—in a commemorative issue of the magazine dedicated to Jordan’s NBA Hall of Fame induction—didn’t encourage readers to make purchases, it did not qualify as an advertisement.

Illinois U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman ruled that the image was not advertising and was protected by the First Amendment.

Because Jordan is a public figure, the ruling was correct, says Thomas Cotter, professor of law specializing in intellectual property and publicity at the University of Minnesota Law School: “Use of a celebrity in an ad without consent is wrong, but many uses are not ads, such as praise or discussion, as in [Jewel Osco’s] case, and these uses ought to be legal because people like to speak on the issues of the day.”

Supervalu has filed a motion to have Jordan compensate it for legal fees, while Jordan’s representatives are appealing the verdict.