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Ex-Football Star Uses College Branding in Campaign

Jason Scott

Anthony Gonzalez, a former NFL football player and Ohio State star, is running for Congress, seeking to represent Ohio’s 16th Congressional District.

As part of his campaign, the former Buckeye standout is using video and still images of his college playing days in political advertising. And Ohio State seems to be cool with it.

Cleveland.com reports that despite the university’s record of vehemently protecting its brand and trademarks from unlicensed use, that policy only deals with commercial use and doesn’t apply to political speech.

Gonzalez’s media includes mailers with the candidate in uniform for the Buckeyes, as well as a video of him in uniform making a catch against rival Michigan.

Oddly enough, the University of Michigan has a specifically defined policy that prohibits political use of their brand and trademarks. According to Cleveland.com, the Michigan policy states that “as a general principle, candidates for office and political organizations” may not use its trademarks, in order to avoid “the appearance of impropriety or endorsement.” Michigan’s policy specifically cites the university’s status as a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization.

In an email to Cleveland.com, Gonzalez’s campaign manager Tim Lolli said that the candidate owns the rights to the images used in his campaign materials.

“Anthony Gonzalez is proud of his time at Ohio State and is proud of his Northeast Ohio roots,” Lolli wrote. “He owns the rights to the pictures and of course he would use them.”

According to the Toledo Blade, Ohio State has sued 14 entities for unauthorized use of its trademarks from 2009 to August 2017.

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