Jor­dan in court, not on it, for his brand value trial


Michael Jor­dan was in a U.S. fed­eral court­room Tues­day for the start of a civil trial that will scru­ti­nize the mar­ket value of the for­mer bas­ket­ball star’s brand and look at whether a gro­cery-store chain di­luted that value by run­ning a steak­coupon ad­ver­tise­ment that in­voked his name with­out per­mis­sion.

The trial in the city where Jor­dan won six NBA cham­pi­onships with the Bulls stems from a law­suit he filed against the now-de­funct Do­minick’s Finer Foods for the 2009 ad in Sports Il­lus­trated that con­grat­u­lated him on his in­duc­tion into the Bas­ket­ball Hall of Fame. Text above a $2 coupon and pho­to­graph of a steak read, “Michael Jor­dan ... You are a cut above.”

Jor­dan, 52, en­tered through the front doors of the court­house Tues­day af­ter Judge John Blakey de­nied his re­quest to use a se­cu­rity tun­nel. A re­laxed-look­ing Jor­dan walked through a me­tal de­tec­tor as dozens of re­porters and passers-by looked on, pulling an ID from his wal­let and show­ing it to se­cu­rity.

Open­ing state­ments were sched­uled for Wed­nes­day. Jury se­lec­tion was com­pleted Tues­day, with lawyers for Do­minick’s ques­tion­ing would-be jurors about whether Jor­dan’s star­dom would tilt their find­ings in his fa­vor.

When a dozen prospec­tive pan­elists were asked to raise their hands if any con­sid­ered Jor­dan “an idol or per­sonal hero,” none of them did. But the judge later dis­missed a man who did say he idol­ized Jor­dan. When a lawyer noted the man wasn’t wear­ing Nike-brand Jor­dan shoes, Blakey said maybe they should scru­ti­nize if he used another prod­uct Jor­dan en­dorses.

“We should check if he was wear­ing Hanes (un­der­wear),” the judge joked.

Jor­dan has metic­u­lously guarded his im­age and the suit was an at­tempt to thwart com­pa­nies that em­ploy praise to slip ref­er­ences to him in an ad. He’s ex­pected to tes­tify about why he so care­fully con­trols his brand.

Ques­tions are also ex­pected to arise about Jor­dan’s lu­cra­tive endorsement deals with mul­ti­ple com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Nike, as the sides seek to es­tab­lish the value of his im­age.

A sep­a­rate judge pre­vi­ously ruled that Do­minick’s did, in fact, use Jor­dan’s iden­tity with­out per­mis­sion, so the un­re­solved is­sue is dam­ages. Jurors could de­cide to award Jor­dan mil­lions of dol­lars or, if they de­cide no no­table dam­age was done to his im­age, noth­ing at all.

Jor­dan also sued the su­per­mar­ket group Jewel-Osco for a sim­i­lar ad con­grat­u­lat­ing him on his Hall of Fame in­duc­tion. A lower court judge ruled in 2012 that the con­grat­u­la­tory mes­sage was con­sti­tu­tion­ally pro­tected free speech and not a com­mer­cial, though an ap­pel­late court over­turned that find­ing. That case is sched­uled for trial in Chicago later this year.


Michael Jor­dan ar­rives at the U.S. fed­eral court­house in Chicago for a civil trial that will ex­am­ine the mar­ket value of the bas­ket­ball star’s iden­tity, Tues­day, Aug. 11.

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