Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Adult Expo Using NFL Trade-marks

Five NFL players have been featured in an advertisement for a party put on by Exxxotica Expo 2011 in Miami. The event was promoted as the official launch party for the Expo, which will be held in July in Chicago.

The ad featured the players Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers, Bears safety Major Wright, Chiefs safety Eric Berry, Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson and Raiders WR Jacoby Ford. According to the ad, these players were the hosts of the party.

The issue is that the ad, which can be viewed here, featured the players in uniform, complete with the teams' trademarks.

Unless the event organizer had the permission to use the various NFL trademarks, it cannot use the marks as doing so suggests that the event is affiliated with, or otherwise endorsed by, the NFL.

The ad also prominently featured the text "Hosted by NFL Stars & 2011 NFL Draftees". This might also be an issue, as featuring it in this manner may also suggest the NFL has sponsored the event.

While players are generally free to endorse whatever events they wish (so long as they are not featuring the team marks or colors), there is also the issue as to whether a team would want a player associated with an adult event.

In order to try and prevent a player from associating himself with the event, a team could consider relying on the moral clause in the player's contract. A moral clause is a provision in a contract that prohibits certain behavior in a person's private life that may reflect negatively on the employer.

Morals clauses enable one party to unilaterally terminate the agreement if the individual engages in conduct that could have some sort of negative impact upon the particular company or organization.

It's not always clear as what constitutes immoral behavior. Morals are usually defined by the society and the prevailing attitudes that dominate at that time. This event, however, may not be deemed immoral.

So it might be tough to rely on the moral clause as a legitimate enforcement tool, although it can be effective in making a point. That, or just ask the player politely not to do it given the kids that watch the game.

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