Jacquelyn Martin for The New York Times
Daniel A. Moore, a sports artist for more than 25
years, used to get sideline passes from Alabama,
but now he is not welcome on game day.
Sports Artist Sued for Mixing Crimson and Tide
By ADAM LIPTAK
Published: November 12, 2006
TUSCALOOSA, Ala., Nov. 7 — In the solemn cathedral of college football devotion and instruction that is the Paul W. Bryant Museum here, a large painting dominates the main chamber. It is called “The Sack,” and it shows an encounter between a Notre Dame quarterback and a human locomotive in crimson and white.
“I’ve never been hit like that before,” the quarterback, Steve Beuerlein, said after his near-lethal sack by Cornelius Bennett in 1986, in the University of Alabama’s first victory ever over his team.
Daniel A. Moore, who painted “The Sack” and scores of other renditions of signal moments in Alabama football history, said he felt something similar last year, when his fax machine began to spit out a lawsuit from the university.
Mr. Moore’s paintings, reproduced in prints and on merchandise, violated the university’s trademark rights, the suit said. It asked a federal judge to forbid him to, among other things, use the university’s “famous crimson and white color scheme.”
Athletes, sports leagues and universities around the nation have become increasingly aggressive in protecting what they say is their intellectual property, and their claims have met with a mixed response from judges and fans. But almost no one here thinks the suit against Mr. Moore is a good idea.
“This lawsuit is the equivalent of the Catholic Church suing Michelangelo for painting the Sistine Chapel,” said Keith Dunnavant, an Alabama alumnus and the author of “Coach: The Life of Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant.”
A university spokeswoman, Cathy Andreen, declined repeated requests for interviews with university officials and lawyers, on what she said was the advice of counsel.
James Glen Stovall, who taught journalism at the university for 25 years, said only one sort of person would support the suit.
“I can see why, if you’re sitting in a roomful of lawyers, you might come to that conclusion,” Mr. Stovall said. “But no one outside of that room would say: ‘Hey, that’s a good idea. Let’s sue Daniel Moore.’ ”
At his gallery in Birmingham, surrounded by prints and paintings reflecting his more than 25 years as a sports artist, Mr. Moore said he remained a loyal Alabama alumnus. He graduated from the university with an art degree in 1976; two of his daughters go there now, and a third is a recent graduate.
“I still love Alabama,” he said. “I still love Alabama football. Obviously, I haven’t yanked my daughters out of school.”
But there is bitterness, too. For two decades, the university gave him sideline passes. Now he is not welcome on game day.
“As an artist,” he said, “it helps to be there, to feel the emotion and excitement and strategy from an on-field perspective.”
He said he did not understand why his work, copies of which have a place of pride in the dens of thousands of Alabama football fans, should not receive the same First Amendment protection that newspaper photographs do. “Artists,” he said, “were the first journalists.”
In its legal papers, the university’s lawyers are grudging in their assessment of Mr. Moore’s talent. “Though skillfully prepared,” the lawyers wrote, Mr. Moore’s art conveys nothing beyond the raw facts of football. Mr. Moore, the suit says, “literally replicates even the expression on the players’ faces in his prints and he adds no message whatever not conveyed by the play itself.”
Are they trying to suggest that depicting the plays of a football game, from a public university has some special right to control the depiction of their logos?
Stupid, stupid suit
posted by Steve @ 12:14:00 AM