By: Brian J. Meli
When Michael Jordan sued Jewel Food Stores, purveyors of the Jewel-Osco supermarkets, for running a full page ad in Sports Illustrated (see above) congratulating the retired basketball superstar on his induction into the Hall of Fame, reactions from Chicagoans ranged from bewilderment to outright resentment. What could arguably the greatest sports icon of the modern era possibly gain by trying to squeeze a few extra bucks (by MJ’s standards) from a local supermarket chain that just wanted to celebrate his achievement? The ad, after all, wasn’t really an ad, so much as a printed tribute to a basketball legend. It was a symbolic gesture of local pride and support; not a shallow attempt at promoting a half-off sale on paper towels, Jewel maintained. Well, Jordan and his lawyers disagreed. They argued that an ad is an ad. And whatever its purported intent, this ad misappropriated Michael’s valuable publicity rights, which Jewel used to its commercial advantage.