Ill. Football’s Dick Butkus Sues for Rights to Award Bearing His Name

April 24, 2007

Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus is suing a Florida club that hands out an award bearing his name.

A lawsuit filed earlier this week in Los Angeles federal court demands the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando turn over control of the Butkus Award, which has been given to the top college linebacker since 1985, to its namesake.

Shelley Ferguson, the club’s executive director, said Thursday that the club had not been served with the lawsuit and she could not comment on it.

Butkus granted a license to the club to use his name and image for the award without payment.

Two years later, the club asked Butkus to sign an affidavit affirming his consent to permit it to use and register the name Butkus Award. However, the suit claims the club “concealed” from Butkus that his signing would allow the club to bar him from using his own name in connection with a collegiate linebacker award.

Butkus also claims in the suit the athletic club had “consistently failed” to exploit the award to raise money “for charitable, social or commercial purposes.”

Butkus wants to take control of the award because “he thinks he can do a better job” at raising money for his favorite charities, which include organizations whose goal is to keep student athletes off of steroids, attorney Robert Helfing.

Butkus notified the club this year that he was going to end his licensing agreement, but the club denied he had the right to do so, according to the suit.

Butkus wants the federal court to rule the club fraudulently obtained the license and rule it invalid; return to Butkus the rights to use his name and image for a linebacker award, and bar the club from involvement in the Butkus Award in the United States.

If Butkus wins, he probably would move the award to Illinois “because that’s where his home base is,” Helfing said.

Florida is “a fine football place, but it’s not Dick Butkus land,” the attorney said.

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