The University of Kentucky’s athletics department sent Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign a cease and desist letter for using an image of a standout men’s basketball player in a campaign video.
McConnell’s team was under fire for most of Tuesday after mistakenly using footage of Duke University’s 2010 NCAA championship victory when highlighting the state’s basketball dominance.
Basketball fans and Democratic critics pounced on the McConnell campaign, which quickly yanked that ad and apologized for the error.
But the replacement video featuring Kentucky star forward Julius Randle also had to be pulled due to concerns over NCAA rules forbidding the use of player’s image for commercial purposes.
In the midst of the NCAA tournament, UK issued the following statement:
“The University of Kentucky consulted with the NCAA earlier today regarding footage of Julius Randle in a Mitch McConnell advertisement. Although the use of the student-athlete’s image in the advertisement is not permissible, because it was done without the knowledge or permission of the university or the student-athlete, it is not an NCAA violation. The University of Kentucky has sent a cease and desist letter and will continue to take appropriate measures to ensure improper usage of a student-athlete’s name, image or likeness is prevented.”
Both versions of the McConnell ad also used an image of University of Louisville men’s basketball player Wayne Blackshear as well. UofL has yet to respond to our request for comment.
NCAA by-laws prohibit student-athletes from making any endorsements or appearances for commercial purposes, whether expressed or implied. If a player’s image is used without their knowledge then either they or the university is required to take steps to stop such activity in order to retain their eligibility.
In a statement, McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore says no student-athlete was aware of their image being used.
“The video was taken down immediately after questions were raised,” she said. “Since that time, we have received correspondence from the University of Kentucky, we have spoken with them, and the matter has been resolved. To be clear, neither the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville nor any student-athlete was aware of any image used in this video, and actions have been taken with the vendor to ensure this never happens again.”
Moore said they have also reached out UofL to clear up any misunderstanding.
“It was our intention to honor our great Kentucky basketball traditions. Our campaign apologizes for any inconvenience this may have caused,” she said.
The Kentucky Wildcats are set to play in-state rival Louisville Cardinals in a Sweet 16 matchup Friday evening.