NBA star Gilbert Arenas filed suit against the production company behind the VH1 reality show Basketball Wives, arguing that the show – which features his ex-fiancée, Laura Govan, the mother of his four children – violates his right of publicity and dilutes his trademark.
Arenas is seeking an injunction that would prevent Shed Media, the producer of the show, from using his name or from using the term “basketball wives” in a way that suggests affiliation with basketball players like him.
“The show. . .provides these women with a vehicle and worldwide platform to use, without permission or authorization, the names and/or likenesses of famous NBA professional basketball players they know on a personal level for their own commercial gain,” according to the complaint. Laura Govan is included solely to enhance the marketing of the show, his suit argues.
In addition to trademark infringement, Arenas alleges that the show is falsely advertised, that it implies a false endorsement, and that it misappropriates his likeness and right of publicity.
Shed Media fired back with an anti-SLAPP (strategic litigation against public participation) counterclaim, calling the suit “a showing of unparalleled hubris.”
“The series is not about basketball, let alone basketball players,” Shed Media argued. “Rather, the series focuses on the women’s lives and their relationships with one another, as well as their careers, personal lives, and how they have been affected by their romantic connections – past or present – to professional basketball players.”
The advertising and promotion of the show have not yet used Arenas’s name or likeness, the defendant pointed out, and despite his fame, Govan has a constitutional right “to tell her story,” Shed wrote.
Arenas’s complaint violates California’s anti-SLAPP law because Basketball Wives is an expressive work protected by the First Amendment, Shed argued, and the show itself – with millions of viewers – is clearly an issue of public interest.
“[Arenas] apparently believes that his fame permits him to prevent Govan from using her name in connection with anything – a television show with the word ‘basketball’ in the title, girls’ basketball shoes, or even basketball shaped cookies – because she used to date him and he is a famous basketball player,” Shed wrote. “No [case law]. . .supports the extreme stretch of the law requested in plaintiff’s complaint.”
To read the complaint in Arenas v. Shed Media, click here.
To read the defendant’s motion to strike, click here.
Why it matters: The complaint represents yet another step in the recent trend to broaden a celebrity’s right of publicity. Arenas seeks to expand the protections of trademark and right of publicity to include the actions of his ex-fiancée and the mother of his children. Arenas is not the only NBA player to object to Basketball Wives. Chris Bosh, whose ex-girlfriend is also featured on the show, filed a similar suit, while Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’Neal have both threatened litigation over the show.