In United States Soccer v. United States Nat’l (2016 U.S. App. LEXIS) the Players’ Association argued successfully before an arbitrator that it had the right to object to print advertisements published by the U.S Soccer Federation that contained players’ images. The Arbitrator found that, although the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was silent on use of players’ images in print media, based on historic dealings between the parties, including the fact that the CBA addressed use of the players’ images in media other than print media, the federation must seek player approval prior to using their image in print media as well.
The federation appealed the decision in federal court, and the district court (United States Soccer Fed’n, Inc v. United States Nat’l Soccer Team Players Ass’n, 140 F. Supp. 3d 738 (N.D. Ill, 2015)) upheld the arbitrator’s decision. On appeal, the 7th Circuit reversed the arbitration award. The Court rejected the arbitrator’s finding that silence of the CBA created ambiguity, and in its decision interpreted the CBA’s silence as clear indication that the federation required no player approval. A subsequent appeal by the Players’ Association is awaiting decision.