I love WSU running back James Williams. You also love James Williams. And, apparently, Bob’s Corner Market in Pullman and/or Budweiser love him too!
You’ll note that the Budweiser advertisement in question features a photoshopped version of this picture, taken by James Snook at USA TODAY Sports against Arizona last season:
The player himself can’t profit from his celebrity status by endorsing any products — that would be a violation that would lead to arbitrary penalties that could include ineligibility. I can say with 100 percent certainty that Williams received zero dollars for this.
But the NCAA and its corporate sponsors can and will use players’ likenesses to promote their products wherever they see fit — hello, MARCH MADNESS!!! commercials — particularly with images that might or might not! be of a particular player. Think jerseys with the number of the most well known player, but not his name ... or, say, a wildly popular video game series in which nameless players with strangely coincidental skin tones, numbers, and height and weight measurements.
(A court saw right through the latter, of course, awarding a $40 million judgment to the players whose likenesses appeared in the EA Sports “NCAA Football” series.)
Since I haven’t seen the actual ad featured in Williams’ picture, it’s tough to know if this is an actual Budweiser advertisement* or if Bob’s put this on the wall and slapped some Bud stickers on it.
*Also hilarious: WSU athletics is sponsored by Coors, not Budweiser.
But what’s undeniable here is that Williams’ likeness was used — even though pains were obviously taken to conceal the identity of the player — without his consent, to promote sales of beer. Which, by the way is a product he probably can’t even legally consume — as a second-year freshman, he’s most likely still 20 years old.
Just like most of the players who appeared in the NCAA Football games, he’s cool with it — hey, it’s pretty neato to see yourself in that way. But it’s hard for most of us with a few more years under our belts to argue that it’s the right thing.
There’s a pretty easy solution to this, by the way: Just start letting players profit from their likeness already.