CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Oscar Robertson, one of the greatest basketball legends of all time, has filed suit in the Northern District of California against the NCAA and others for the commercial exploitation of his image, likeness and name without his consent.
The issue first came to Robertson's attention when fans sent him current trading cards for signing that had pictures of him in his University of Cincinnati days; cards that Mr. Robertson had not authorized or even known about.
"When I first started seeing these cards many years ago, as a matter of fact they had one of my freshman number which is 23 on the card," said Robertson. "I kept trying to find out where were these cards coming from and who was printing them?"
On Thursday, he and his lawyer Stan Chesley said the culprit is the NCAA.
Now, Robertson has joined a class action lawsuit against the organization. The lawsuit alleges that the NCAA and others have illegally licensed, and received compensation for, the images and likeness of former college athletes like Mr. Robertson.
"I guarantee you, if you used Kroger's name or Procter and Gamble's name and their logo and their face without paying for it, you'd be hearing from them," said Chesley.
Robertson is considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He lead the University of Cincinnati to Final Fours in 1959 and 1960. He said he never gave anyone permission to use his image back then, and five decades later, he still hasn't.
"I think they had all the power," said Robertson. "I think maybe they didn't expect anyone to ever come forward, but I'm just part of several people who are coming forward about this. To fight this, and see what we can do in the courts."
Robertson is just the latest football or basketball player to join the suit. Ed O'bannon, a player on UCLA's 1995 NCAA championship team, initiated the lawsuit in July of 2009.
Mr. Robertson's primary counsel is Stanley M. Chesley of the Cincinnati, Ohio based law firm of Waite, Schneider, Bayless & Chesley Co., L.P.A., a nationally known litigation firm, who has joined together with other nationally prominent firms to bring this suit.
Robertson is looking for a financial award, but he says it's about more than just the money; it's also about righting a wrong for athletes of today and yesterday.
"Not only those kids but taking a stand for myself, as well," Robertson said. "Why should the NCAA have the right to do this? They just take it upon themselves to do this. Stan said a moment ago, they contacted the University of Cincinnati about these cards, but not Oscar Robertson."
FOX19 called and emailed the NCAA for a comment, but as of news time, no one had responded.