Posted by Adam Jacobi
College football is big business these days, and part of monetizing that big business is aggressive controlling the public perception of the team, whether it be through press coverage or brand management. And the way to do that? Lawyer up, buddies, and use 'em. A lot. No, it doesn't sound particularly honorable or desirable, but we're talking about big business, and that's the new reality of the situation.
Even so, after allowing that athletic departments' lawyers will go after such trivialities as t-shirts with specific mentions of players or team names, Miami's strongarm of ESPN in the wake of ESPN's "30 for 30" documentary The U is just baffling. According to Techdirt, the school demanded that the production company remove the Miami "U" logo from Michael Irvin's helmet on the cover, for reasons passing understanding.
The movie is a documentary about Miami, so if "fair use" doesn't apply here, then the clause basically doesn't need to exist. But it costs a lot less to airbrush a logo off a helmet than it does to fight this lawsuit, so expect ESPN to capitulate without a fight. And that's a shame. ESPN's probably capable of out-lawyering pretty much anybody, and it would be nice to see a stand made over fair use to stop these predatory lawsuits (Ohio State, we're looking at you).
But alas, that's not really the world we live in anymore.