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Muhammad Ali Enterprises Socks Fox With $30 Million Lawsuit Over Super Bowl Promo

muhammad ali
FremantleMedia Ltd/REX/Shutterstock

Fox Broadcasting risks taking a legal hit over its use of championship boxing legend Muhammad Ali in a Super Bowl promo earlier this year.

Muhammad Ali Enterprises, a unit of New York brand licensing and development firm Authentic Brands Group, filed a complaint Tuesday in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois seeking more than $30 million from Fox Broadcasting Co., citing it was owed money because the 21st Century Fox-owned unit used an unauthorized representation of Ali in a three-minute promotional pre-game video before the start of Super Bowl LI earlier this year. Muhammad Ali says it owns  the trademark rights, copyrights, rights of publicity, and all other intellectual property rights related to Ali.

“Fox obtained great value by using Muhammad Ali to promote itself.  It should pay for what it took,” said Frederick Sperling, an attorney with Schiff Hardin who is lead counsel for Muhammad Ali Enterprises. The law firm has prevailed in a case concerning a similar matter, winning a jury verdict of $8.9 million for the unauthorized use of Michael Jordan’s identity in a limited distribution of a commemorative issue of “Sports Illustrated.” It is also prosecuting a case against Samsung for the unauthorized use of the identity of the former soccer player Pele in an ad promoting Samsung and its products.

The case charges Fox used Muhammad Ali’s name, image, and likeness as the centerpiece of a three-minute promotional video for its broadcast of the Super Bowl, time it estimated would be worth $30 million if it had been sold to advertisers.

A Fox Broadcasting spokesman referred a query to Fox Sports, where a spokesperson did not immediately respond.

Ali died in 2016.