DraftKings, FanDuel Sued Over Use of Image by College Player

  • Former player says sites used likeness without permission
  • Suit opens up a new front for daily fantasy sports sites

DraftKings Inc. and FanDuel Inc. have a new fight on their hands.

The daily fantasy sites, already battling over their legality in several states, were sued by a former college football player who accused the companies of profiting from the use of the names and likenesses of student athletes without their permission.

Akeem Daniels, a Northern Illinois University running back from 2010 to 2014, sued the companies in Chicago federal court on Wednesday, claiming the sites used his name and likeness to generate millions of dollars in revenue from entry fees.

The suit presents another legal issue for the companies and may lead them to move away from contests centered on student athletes, especially as the National Collegiate Athletic Association pressures them to stop advertising their games and several states are considering banning daily fantasy sports based on college athletics, said Daniel Wallach, a sports and gaming attorney.

“It’s definitely a new legal front and a different issue than what had been presented in the other lawsuits against DraftKings and FanDuel,” Wallach said. “This isn’t a case they are going to be able to get rid of quite so easily.”

DraftKings and FanDuel didn’t immediately respond to e-mailed requests for comment on the suit.

Daniels seeks to represent all college players in the lawsuit.

Garcon Settlement

Daniels’s lawsuit follows Washington Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon’s settlement this month with FanDuel. Garcon accused FanDuel of exploiting players’ images to build its business.

Garcon’s settlement was announced the same day as the National Football League’s players union said FanDuel agreed to pay for licensing rights that will allow its members to appear in marketing campaigns, joining DraftKings and DailyMVP.

The issues in Daniels’ case are similar to those raised by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, who accused the NCAA of licensing his name and likeness in video games and television broadcasts, Wallach said.

While O’Bannon won a ruling after a trial that colleges must pay thousands of football and basketball players no less than $5,000 a year for the use of their name, image and likeness, an appeals court in September said such a payment is the wrong remedy for college athletes because it would open the door to moving them to professional status.

In 2014, the NCAA and Electronic Arts Inc. agreed to pay $60 million to student athletes for the use of their images in video games, settling a lawsuit started by former Arizona State University quarterback Sam Keller.

Daniels’s lawsuit is “one additional lever that could pressure FanDuel and DraftKings into backing away from college sports,” Wallach said. “But it is far too valuable to them and they aren’t going to yield that easily.”

The cases are Daniels v. DraftKings Inc., 1:16-cv-01220, and Daniels v. FanDuel Inc., 1:16-cv-01223, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago)

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