LaMichael James has been a college football star at the University of Oregon, and will be drafted pretty high in this week's NFL draft. The University of Oregon is doing spring cleaning this week. What do these two things have in common?
The University of Oregon has a lot of excess football gear in storage that it is trying to get rid of. This makes perfect sense since the UO football team wears an assortment of jerseys, pants, helmets, socks and shoes in different color and style combinations. Images displaying a wide assortment of the "can't figure out what to wear" team is located here. So, with all of this stylish apparel, is it any wonder that the team needs to clear out its cupboards of old gear so as to make room for this fall's new fashions? Of course not. Who wouldn't?
So, the University of Oregon is auctioning off the jerseys and other equipment worn by players, including well-known NFL draft-eligible players such as LaMichael James. The gear auction is happening now at oregonauthentic.com. Some of the LaMichael James gear is commanding an auction price in excess of $600. And we know that the gear was genuinely worn by these famous players because the website oregonauthentic.com says so. The gear is Oregon authentic!
All of which caused LaMichael James to go onto Twitter recently and inquiry "How much do I get?" Good question. Most likely, NOTHING.
Most states in the U.S. have some form of right of publicity law that protects a person's image and persona from commercial appropriation by third parties. The states of California and Washington, each bordering Oregon to the south and north, have right of publicity laws. But not Oregon. Nope. Oregon is one state that does not recognize a person's right of publicity. A person who wants to protect their image or persona from crass commercial appropriation by another without permission is basically out of luck in Oregon. If LaMichael James played football at a school in California or Washington -- heaven forbid! -- he would certainly have the ability to call up the athletic department and request his cut of the proceeds from the auction of his worn and valuable jersey. But because he played in Oregon, and because the appropriation of his persona is occurring in Eugene and not in Seattle or LA, he gets nothing.
Let's be clear. The reason the UO athletic department is holding an auction of LaMichael James' jersey, together with the gear of a lot of other well-known players, is because these worn jerseys represent a gold mine to the school. These worn jerseys have no inherent value beyond the reasonable value that any used apparel might bring in a thrift store. But because these jerseys were worn by well-known college football stars, there is extra value to be gained. These jerseys were sweat stained. They were put on, tugged at, yanked, tackled, rolled on the turf and otherwise abused during the course of athletic play by college football stars. The public is offering to pay extra for this gear because of the star-association with these players.
So, the UO athletic department may end up pocketing hundreds of extra dollars for each auctioned item rather than the lower mark-up that it usually gets from retail sales of new gear. The extra margin exists because of the player. The skill and renown of the player created this extra value. These players, such as LaMichael James, paid their dues to the school, left the school and its football program, and are now free citizens who should have the ability to control their fame, their name, their persona and their innate value.
But not in Oregon.