There are a number of athletes with powerful historical legacies, and one of the most impactful has to be Muhammad Ali. The legendary boxer and activist changed the world during the years of his life, and he hasn't been forgotten in the time since his death in 2016. As it turns out, that powerful legacy of his has led to a lawsuit that currently has Fox in a lot of hot water with Muhammad Ali Enterprises.
Here's what's happening. Fox Broadcasting put together a three-minute promotional spot all about Muhammad Ali to be broadcast ahead of the 2017 Super Bowl back in February. The clip lauded Ali as "The Greatest" and used a combination of recreation and archival footage to take viewers through an abbreviated history of his life. The result was a video that was quite complimentary and deferential to Ali, but Muhammad Ali Enterprises alleges that Fox didn't have the rights to the archival footage. So, MAE is suing Fox for $30 million.
According to the lawsuit from Muhammad Ali Enterprises (via THR), Fox Broadcasting aired the footage without requesting or receiving permission from MAE to "use Ali's identity or to imply his endorsement in connection with the services offered by Fox, including its broadcast of the Super Bowl." MAE alleges that use of footage of Muhammad Ali constituted a violation of the Illinois Right of Publicity Act.
This is not the first time that a case like this has been pursued by an athlete/athlete's representative. Michael Jordan filed a successful lawsuit against a grocery store in the Chicago area after the store used an ad in Sports Illustrated to congratulate him on his official induction into the Basketball Hall Of Fame. Jordan was ultimately awarded $8.9 million in damages. Although the $8.9 million sum is significantly smaller than the $30 million being sought by Muhammad Ali Enterprises, the case set a precedent that could work in MAE's favor moving forward.
The hefty $30 million sum was reportedly calculated from how much three minutes of advertising would cost on Super Bowl Sunday to all advertisers. Super Bowl Sunday is known for its commercials (some of which are surprisingly creepy) nearly as much as for its football, and ad time costs quite a pretty penny for even quick commercials. If Muhammad Ali Enterprises is successful in this lawsuit, folks at Fox may wish they'd aired the spot on another night than Super Bowl Sunday. If you're curious about the video that caused so much uproar, take a look: