NFL sacks porn expo that used players in ad

June 17, 2011 4:14:48 PM PDT
It's a blitz by the NFL -- a legal one.

The National Football League has started to take action against promoters of a porn star expo in Rosemont who are using NFL players in their ads. The move follows an exclusive story by the ABC7 I-Team on Tuesday that focused on a Chicago Bear who was seen in the porn promotion.

When it comes to cases such as this, the NFL legal department always runs a hurry-up offense, putting trademark offenders on quick notice that they must cease and desist or they will be taken to court.

When the I-Team revealed that NFL players were also being associated with porn stars, the NFL moved in to sack the promoter.

The I-Team began looking into this after learning that Rosemont was going to host a porn expo called "Exxxotica" next month, at the Donald Stephens Convention Center, named for the village's late founder and long-time mayor.

The event, beginning July 8, attracts the world largest collection of porn film stars and thousands of sex industry fans.

While Exxxotica seemed an odd fit with Rosemont's new family-friendly attractions, it was this advertisement for a kick-off party that grabbed the I-Team's attention. It featured several NFL stars, including Chicago Bears safety Major Wright and University of Illinois football standout Corey Liuget, drafted in the first round by the San Diego Chargers.

Friday, three days after the I-Team's original report, National Football League officials sent a cease and desist letter to Victory Tradeshow Management of Philadelphia, promoter of Exxxotica.

"The public is likely to mistakenly believe that your event has been authorized or sponsored by, or is somehow affiliated with the NFL," said league assistant counsel Sarah Crutcher in the letter.

Crutcher said, even if the individual players had consented to participate in the porn kick-off party, players are not legally entitled to give permission for the use of "registered uniform and helmet designs."

However, the cease and desist letter states that the "unauthorized use of the NFL trademarks is particularly egregious because it is in connection with an event featuring adult entertainment and pornography."

The NFL is demanding that all promotional material be taken down by the promoter by Monday and that written compliance be sent to the league.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the porn expo promoter Friday said, "We are currently looking into the NFL's accusations and take their concerns very seriously...We are talking with our corporate counsel and we will be making a formal response both publicly as well as to the NFL on Monday."

Several of the NFL players involved, including Wright and Liuget, have issued apologies, maintaining they had no idea that they were endorsing a porn star party.

The NFL is currently in contract talks with the players' union and cannot have communication with individual players. League officials and team executives therefore cannot directly express their dismay to players who were depicted in the Exxxotica ads.