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Chris Spielman’s lawsuit could have implications far beyond Ohio State

The former Buckeye linebacker’s case against the university could be the first of many similar suits nationally.

2011 Summer TCA Tour - Day 1 Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

“...OSU has entered into various licensing partnerships that unlawfully utilize the images of Plaintiff and Class Members, by and through Defendant IMG College, and as further detailed herein.”

-Attorney Brian Duncan, via Michael McCann, Sports Illustrated

Chris Spielman’s lawsuit against Ohio State and IMG College is likely to have wide-reaching implications beyond Columbus. The former Ohio State linebacker filed the federal suit last week, claiming that Ohio State and IMG College, its licensing partner, conspired to deny payment to current and former football players. In the particular issue at hand, Spielman cited banners, sponsored by Honda, which hung at games at the Horseshoe and which depicted the likeness of former Buckeye greats--including Spielman. None of the players highlighted were paid and none gave consent to be included on the banners, according to Spielman. Nike was also mentioned in the suit, given their role in creating “Legends of the Scarlet and Gray” apparel which depict former players, also without consent or monetary compensation.

Spielman says that he would donate any monetary award for damages back to the athletic department, and has stated that he simply wants to raise awareness. Currently, the case is not a class action lawsuit, and Ohio State may end up settling out of court with Spielman.

While contained at the moment to Ohio State football athletes, Spielman has precedent in his favor. In 2016, a judge finalized a court ruling in favor of former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon. The class action lawsuit claimed that the NCAA violated federal antitrust laws by barring payment to college athletes. Still, Spielman’s case rests in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, while O’Bannon’s ruling was established in the Ninth Circuit, so the different jurisdictions mean that the O’Bannon case is not binding elsewhere. But it is the first of what is likely to be a flood of similar cases regarding the NCAA’s compensation of college athletes. If these federal cases result in different rulings, the Supreme Court might ultimately enter the fray and render a final decision on the matter.

“Wisconsin, the defending champ of the Big Ten West and the likely favorite this year, comes to Lincoln on Oct. 7. Nebraska won’t be a fresh team when Ohio State arrives.”

-Paul Vernon, Associated Press

Last season’s matchup against Nebraska looked to be one of the toughest tests of the season entering the game, as the Huskers came to Columbus ranked 10th in the nation. Nebraska had just lost the previous week in overtime to No. 11 Wisconsin, but had been undefeated before they left for Madison. But then, Ohio State handed the Huskers a loss so thorough on both sides of the ball that it eclipsed even the 58-point margin the Buckeyes managed over Rutgers. The Buckeyes clicked on all cylinders after a much-too-close four-point victory over Northwestern the week prior, and Nebraska seemed utterly lost after an injury to quarterback Tommy Armstrong in the second quarter.

This season, as last year, Nebraska has to face Ohio State just a week after Wisconsin; though this go-round, Nebraska gets to play both powers in Lincoln. The Buckeyes are seeking redemption for the last time they visited Memorial Stadium in 2011, when Nebraska managed a 21-point comeback following an injury to then-freshman quarterback Braxton Miller.

Mike Riley is entering his third season as head coach in Lincoln. After a 6-7 inaugural season, he improved to 9-4 last year. On the field, Nebraska returns 10 starters. While cornerback Chris Jones, the team’s top defensive prospect, is technically returning, knee surgery will likely keep him sidelined when the Buckeyes come to town. Nebraska will need to rely on their offense to score points given their depleted defense.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Huskers lost Armstrong but also top-receiver Jordan Westerkamp. Junior quarterback Tanner Lee won the starting role in the spring after sitting out a year due to NCAA transfer guidelines. Previously, Lee started 19 games while at Tulane, and he will bring that experience to bear at Nebraska. If he is able to kick the offense into gear, the game could be a lot closer than last year’s 62-3 romp.

“If Saturday’s results at the Grand Prix of Spain are any indication, Logan Stieber and Kyle Snyder are ready to chase another gold medal at next month’s World Championships in Paris.”

-The Ohio State University

Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder may have been denied the ESPY Award for Best Male Olympic Athlete last week (that honor went to Michael Phelps), but the rising senior wrestler made up for it by winning yet another title, this time at the Grand Prix of Spain. Snyder wasn’t the only Buckeye to bring home a gold, as former Ohio State wrestler Logan Stieber also earned a title in his weight class. Both managed to win their respective titles without giving up a single point along the way.

At 97 kg, Snyder, the youngest Olympic and World Champion in history, won four-straight matches, all by a 10-0 score, over wrestlers from Sweden, Russia, Iran and South Africa. Snyder is now 45-5 in international competition. Snyder has already had an auspicious start to the offseason. This spring, Snyder was also named as the Big Ten Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year, and received his ESPY nomination.

Stieber, meanwhile, similarly dominated at the 61 kg weight class. His 39-0 score came on wins over opponents from Italy, Belarus, France and Spain. This win adds to an already impressive resume for Stieber, who is a four-time NCAA champion--a feat that is unmatched even by Snyder, who did not win a championship as a freshman--as well as a World Champion.

Overall, the US team, competing in freestyle in Spain, went 25-0 and had seven gold medalists. The team recorded an aggregate 17 technical falls and four pins on their way to the win.

Both Snyder and Stieber are preparing in Columbus for the upcoming World Championships, scheduled to take place in Paris in August. The championships feature both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, in addition to women’s competitions. Snyder is the top-seed in his weight class, while Stieber earned the No. 2 seed for his class.