By: David Becerra
LeBron James is no stranger to headlines. Even people who aren’t the biggest basketball fans know who LeBron James is and that’s mostly because he was considered to be the next basketball star starting in 2003, and since then hasn’t disappointed. The all star Laker is usually in the media almost 24/7 for having an impact both on the basketball court and off. He is one of those rare athletes and even celebrities, because he has done so much more than basketball, that has never done anything noteworthy to ruin his reputation. This is something that is nearly impossible in today’s digital age where anything you say or do can come back and haunt you, which is why it is an amazing feat that James has accomplished over his 17 year NBA career.
James and his media company, Uninterrupted, have recently come under fire and are being sued by a Maryland non-profit Organization, Game Plan Inc. James and his company are one of four being sued for trademark infringement over the phrase “More Than An Athlete”. The phrase became popular a while back and was used as a response to Fox News television host Laura Ingrahams’ comments telling James to “shut up and dribble” instead of talking politics.
'Shut up and dribble' — Fox News's Laura Ingraham to LeBron and Kevin Durant after their criticism of President Trump pic.twitter.com/0BlokQDIIl
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) February 16, 2018
The phrase has been used on a plethora of Nike products as well as on the NBA 2K video game made by Take-Two Interactive Software Inc.
According to an article on ESPN “LeBron James’ media company involved in lawsuit over ‘More Than An Athlete’ phrase” Game Plan Inc. a youth development nonprofit, applied to trademark the phrase “I Am More Than An Athlete” in June 2016. The phrase was first used the following year when the group was pictured wearing t-shirts of the slogan at a Wizards v. Cavaliers game. Rights of the phrase with a GP Game Plan logo on June 5, 2018. Game Plan Inc. was finally awarded the on June of 2018.
With all this being set, in 2018 James’ media Uninterrupted signed signed a deal with Nike to print t-shirts with the quote and ESPN even aired footage that exposed U.S. viewers to the phrase, the nonprofit said in court documents according to CBS. The lawsuit seeks at least $33 million in damages which would mean that James and other companies would no longer be able to use the phrase.
Although it would have been a better idea for James and his team to do some research on the phrase before using it all over various platforms but, it’s not the end of the world. James and his company just further popularized the phrase and thats something that Game Plan Inc. can use and build upon for the future.