Be like Mike? On the court, of course.
In a court? Thanks, I’ll pass.
Michael Jordan carved out a Hall of Fame NBA career and became his sport’s most transcendent figure by employing a hellbent-for-leather style of play. Sure, there was a gracefulness to what he did with a basketball in his hands, but what is most remembered about MJ was his ferociously competitive nature.
Jordan simply didn’t want to lose, even though that happened a number of times through the first six years of his pro career, when the Detroit Pistons often stood in his way. That demon was finally exorcised in 1991, and Jordan’s Bulls went on to capture six titles in an eight-year span.
Wanting to be the absolute best, and stopping at nothing to make that happen, was the ultimate testimony to Jordan’s greatness. But long after the ball stopped bouncing and with the string of championships now representing a storied past rather than a glorious present, Jordan refuses to let go.
Even though there’s been absolutely nothing for him to prove for the better part of nearly two decades, MJ continues to have a chip on his shoulder. His attitude reminds me of those old battery commercials featuring actor Robert Conrad, who would place the product on his shoulder and dare viewers to knock it off.
Those ads, of course, were done as a spoof, as they played off the tough-guy persona Conrad had created in various roles. But when Jordan, while delivering his Hall of Fame speech in 2009, basically called out various people he felt had slighted him even the tiniest bit at some juncture of his NBA career, it wasn’t fun or amusing.
It was petty. However, as it turned out, that was only the tip of the iceberg.
Jordan is still at it, this time with corporate America squarely in his sights. Certainly, MJ should love the business world, seeing as how he’s made hundreds of millions of dollars off it by hawking a variety of its goods, but not all companies are his pals.
That doesn’t mean he is immune to wanting money from them, though. And that’s exactly what Jordan is attempting to extract from Dominick’s.
He is suing the grocery-store giant for $5 million for unauthorized use of his identity in ads. The irony is Dominick’s incurred Jordan’s wrath while it was congratulating him in print on his induction into the Hall of Fame, but that’s not how he and his attorneys see things.
According to a story appearing on the NBCchicago.com website, Jordan and his lawyers allege that the advertisement wasn’t only about “respectful praise,” but a “sneaky attempt” at associating MJ with their products.
Jordan had also brought a suit against Jewel-Osco in 2009 for the same kind of thing. Jewel-Osco’s congratulatory ad featured a pair of red-and-white sneakers with the number 23 on the tongue and a message above the shoes that hailed the “fellow Chicagoan who was ‘just around the corner’ for so many years. “Just around the corner” was used in a Jewel-Osco slogan.
Jordan’s lawsuit alleged that the shoes in the ad were “an inaccurate and misleading copy of Air Jordan basketball shoes” and stated that Jewel-Osco never received Jordan’s permission to use his identity or imply his endorsement with the goods and services offered by the chain.
That case has since gone against Jordan, as a U.S. District judge said Jewel-Osco was practicing “noncommercial speech” and protected by the First Amendment. MJ, however, filed an appeal last fall.
As for Dominick’s, it referred to Jordan as “a cut above” in its message to Michael and also featured a photograph of a steak. At the bottom of the full-page ad was a coupon for a Rancher’s Reserve steak, which is a trademarked name of Dominick’s parent company, Safeway.
The complaint here, according to a story that appeared in the Chicago Tribune, is that Jordan already has his name associated with two steakhouses and an online steak company. Therefore, there is absolutely no possibility of him green-lighting Dominick’s use of anything connected with him to sell its steaks.
Granted, it was a risky move for Dominick’s to include a coupon, even though it never implied Jordan was associated with Rancher’s Reserve. However, isn’t it just possible the company was unaware of Jordan’s specific affiliation with other steaks?
Honestly, I never knew about it, and I’m willing to bet most other people had no knowledge of it, either. Heck, the last time I was paying close attention to Jordan, he was playing a game of horse with Larry Bird and trying to win a lunch from McDonald’s.
Interestingly, the judge who is hearing the case against Dominick’s evidently chastised Jordan for being greedy. Hopefully, that will be given serious consideration prior to the rendering of a verdict.
I understand why Jordan is protective of his name and would be upset by any unlicensed usage of it, but this seems to be something of a stretch. If either grocery chain had been habitual in trading on Jordan’s notoriety, by all means cut it down to size in the manner that stings the most.
But come on, they were merely praising the guy. The disagreement with Jewel-Osco seemed especially ridiculous, seeing as there was no specific item being promoted in the congratulatory ad, no picture of Jordan and no claim that he was in any way a spokesman for the company.
Has MJ never set foot inside of a Jewel-Osco? If he has and he purchased something, couldn’t that be viewed as an endorsement of sorts?
And speaking of feet, were Jordan and his legal team serious when they referred to the “inaccurate and misleading copy of Air Jordan basketball shoes” in the suit? Even an imbecile wouldn’t have mistaken the shoes that were shown for the real thing.
Dominick’s unquestionably erred, but Air Jordan has also erred if he thinks $5 million worth of damage was done to his reputation. Truth is, he’s doing more harm to it himself by continuing this fight.
Jordan is 50 years old now. He just got remarried, so perhaps he should think about settling down and starting to ease his way into life’s slow lane.
Stop searching for new challenges, Mike, because one of these days you might not like the outcome very much.