Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal


The popularity of college athletics is at an all-time high in the United States. Colleges and universities have capitalized on the enthusiasm through marketing merchandise aimed at taking advantage of the growing popularity. Recently, colleges have begun using the popularity of individual student-athletes by marketing clothing featuring uniform numbers of high-profile players on their tiams. This Note examines this latest trend in college sports merchandising.

This Note suggests that the marketing of this type of merchandise may violate student-athletes' common law and statutory rights of publicity. This Note chronicles the development of right of publicity law, concluding that a college player's uniform number may be part of his or her "identity" that may be protected from unauthorized commercial exploitation. This Note examines current barriers that prevent athletes from reaping benefits from this merchandising, namely the rules limiting the amount of compensation a studentathlete may receive. This Note concludes by examining potential alternatives to the current situation, which allows colleges to market merchandise based on athletes' identities while limiting compensation to them. Alternatives include paying athletes a percentage of the revenue generated by the merchandise or using some of the merchandising revenue to establish a trust fund for the athletes' benefit.