Chicago Bulls great Michael Jordan testified Tuesday that his image is precious to him, which is why he filed a lawsuit against a grocery store chain that used it without permission.
“I have the final say-so on everything that involves my likeness and my name,” Jordan told jurors in Chicago. When his attorney asked him why he brought the case, Jordan said it was “to protect my likeness, my image … something I value very preciously.”
Dominick’s Finer Foods has acknowledged it wasn’t authorized to use Jordan’s image in a 2009 magazine ad. The jury will decide the fair market value of the infringement by the grocery chain, which has since gone out of business.
Frederick Sperling, Jordan’s attorney, has told jurors Jordan’s name was worth at least $480 million to Nike and that each commercial use of Jordan’s name is worth more than $10 million. A witness Monday testified Jordan made $100 million from his identity last year, even though he last played in the NBA in 2003.
Jordan stood with his hands behind his back and smiled at the jury when they left the courtroom. Jurors have been able to submit written questions to witnesses, which are reviewed by the judge and the attorneys out of hearing of jurors. Only one juror question was submitted for Jordan and there was laughter from the gallery when the judge said it was juror question “number 23” in the case (Jordan’s jersey number).
The juror wanted to know why Jordan had said he would never have entered into a deal with Dominick’s even if the chain had asked.
With jurors back in the courtroom Jordan said, “it didn’t fit the strategy we operated on in terms of signing and evaluating deals.”
The ad, which ran in a commemorative edition of Sports Illustrated, congratulated Jordan on his Hall of Fame induction and included a $2-off coupon above a photograph of a sizzling steak.
The edition didn’t sell as well as expected, according to a video deposition played in court by the defense. Damian Botteselle of Sports Illustrated’s parent company Time Warner, said fewer than 42,000 of the 149,000 printed copies were sold.
“It was not selling well across the board, which tells me it just wasn’t resonating with consumers,” Botteselle said.
Steven Mandell, a lawyer for Dominick’s, has suggested Jordan’s attorneys overvalued Jordan’s name. It might be worth $10 million in some contexts, he said, but not necessarily in a one-off ad.
Jordan, 52, displayed an amused discomfort with having to wear reading glasses while on the witness stand, jokingly saying “don’t look” when he put them on to read a page he was handed.