Steve Van Buren, the first player to win three consecutive NFL rushing titles, is looking to score again at age 89.
Van Buren, who led the Philadelphia Eagles to league championships in 1948 and ’49, is taking Panini America to court over the recent production and distribution of football cards featuring his likeness and what he says are stolen canceled checks attached to some of them.
In court papers filed in U.S. District Court and obtained by Sports Collectors Daily, Van Buren claims Panini–then known as Donruss-Playoff, approached him in 2006, requesting permission to include him in a set of cards. Van Buren says he declined the offer, but later discovered that he had been included in the 2006 Donruss Classics issue anyway when a collector mailed him a card to be autographed.
Van Buren’s suit claims his representatives called the NFL Players Association to protest, but he eventually settled for $6500 in compensation for the use of his name and likeness on the three cards Donruss claimed to have issued.
However, in 2009, Van Buren says he learned Donruss had included him in its 2007 National Treasures set and in the 2009 Classic Cuts product. Cut signatures from personal checks Van Buren had signed were utilized to create the Classic Cuts cards. Van Buren claims those checks had been “stolen” from him, although the lawsuit does not state when or where he claims the alleged theft may have occurred.
“Van Buren has never and would never authorize the sale of memorabilia containing or consisting of his signature on canceled checks from his bank account,” the suit claims. “Such use is demeaning to Van Buren personally and is injurious to the commercial value of Van Buren’s name and likeness.”
The former running back’s attorneys also claim that Donruss knew it had made more than the three cards of Van Buren when it settled with him in 2006.
Van Buren is asking the court to issue an injunction to stop further commercial use of his image and likeness, asks that Panini turn over all materials it may have in its possession that could be used to create more Van Buren cards and is seeking punitive damages.