Muhammad Ali Enterprises wasn’t too pleased with a promo featuring the late boxer before Super Bowl LI in February. On Tuesday, Fox was sued by Ali Enterprises for $30 million after claiming Ali’s image was illegally used by the network in the ad.

Here’s the promo, in case you don’t remember it.

Schiff Harden, the lead counsel in the case, has had success in protecting images rights of athletes, as Variety notes.

“Fox obtained great value by using Muhammad Ali to promote itself.  It should pay for what it took,” said Frederick Sperling, an attorney with Schiff Hardin who is lead counsel for Muhammad Ali Enterprises. The law firm has prevailed in a case concerning a similar matter, winning a jury verdict of $8.9 million for the unauthorized use of Michael Jordan’s identity in a limited distribution of a commemorative issue of “Sports Illustrated.” It is also prosecuting a case against Samsung for the unauthorized use of the identity of the former soccer player Pele in an ad promoting Samsung and its products.

Deadline has more from the statement, which states that the three minute spot could have been sold to advertisers for $30 million (thus, the amount being sought in the suit).

“MAE brings these claims for false endorsement and violation of the right of publicity against Fox for the damages caused and profits unjustly gained by Fox for its unauthorized use of Muhammad Ali’s identity,” the eight-page complaint asserts of “The Greatest” video that was shown right before the big game and linked Ali with various NFL legends. “The video uses Ali to define greatness and ultimately to compare the NFL legends to Ali and thus to define them and the Super Bowl as ‘greatness’ too,” the document deftly contextualizes.

“Fox’s unauthorized use of Ali’s identity, including his image and persona, in its promotional video was a false or misleading representation of fact that falsely implies Ali’s or MAE’s endorsement of Fox’s services,” the filing from Chicago firm Schiff Hardin LLP adds (read it here).

“Fox’s promotional video uses Ali’s identity to promote Fox and its broadcast services,” they go on to say before winding up a powerful legal left hook.”Fox could have sold the three minutes it used for its promotional video to other advertisers for $30 million.”

Fox sold 30 second ad spots during February’s Super Bowl for $5 million apiece.

Authentic Brands Group, a brand licensing and development firm which Ali Enterprises is part of, has owned “the trademark rights, copyrights, rights of publicity, and all other intellectual property rights related to Ali” for the last four years.

[Variety, Deadline]

About Joe Lucia

I'm the managing editor of Awful Announcing and the news editor of The Comeback. I also made The Outside Corner a thing for six seasons.

  • Andrew

    How is it possible that Fox approved this? They obviously know the ins and outs of licensing rights. Seems like an amateur move on their part.