The son of legendary NFL Films announcer John Facenda can seek damages for the use of his father's voice on a program about a John Madden video game, a federal judge ruled here yesterday.
Facenda, in a written agreement signed before his 1984 death, gave the NFL full use of his announcing work - except when it came to any product endorsement, the judge's order said.
John Facenda Jr. has been vigilant about protecting the use of his father's thundering baritone, which some have dubbed "the voice of God." The ruling allows him to seek damages from a jury on the question of liability, although U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacob P. Hart threw out his invasion-of-privacy claim.
The NFL plans to appeal, and no trial date has been set.
Facenda's "day job" was news anchor at WCAU-TV from 1952 to '73, preceded by a long stint at WIP radio.
John Facenda Jr. filed the suit after hearing snippets of his father's work on an NFL Network program about the making of the 2006 John Madden video game. The 22-minute program includes three lines from Facenda that last a combined 13 seconds.
"X's and O's on the blackboard are translated into imagination on the field," Facenda says at one point.
John Facenda Jr. contends that the network program is a promotion for the video, citing the NFL's licensing agreement with the game's maker to support sales with promotional material. The program aired on the cable channel in August 2006, before the game's release.
The NFL calls the program a "documentary."
Facenda did most of his narration work for NFL Films under an oral agreement "that he would be paid a certain amount for each program," the judge said in the order. However, Facenda signed a written agreement with NFL Films a few months before he died, the order states.
John Facenda Jr., who lives in White Haven, previously settled a lawsuit against the Campbell Soup Co. for using a Facenda-soundalike in radio and television ads.
"He does not want to wake up one day hearing his father's voice advertising condoms," said his lawyer, Paul Lauricella.
The suit was filed in federal court against NFL Films Inc. and NFL Properties LLC.
"The Madden game's a great game," Lauricella said. "We just think if it's going to be advertised [with his voice], it deserves to be compensated."
* Former San Diego Chargers linebacker Steve Foley pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of driving with a blood-alcohol level above the state's legal limit the night he was followed and shot by an off-duty police officer Sept. 3 near his home in Poway, Calif.
Foley was sentenced to 5 years' probation and ordered to submit to alcohol testing if requested by authorities. He also was ordered to pay a $1,756 fine and appear at a public event for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. A related charge of driving under the influence was dropped.
Foley, who now walks with a limp, missed the season and in March was released 2 years early from his contract with the Chargers. He has filed a civil complaint seeking damages from rookie office Aaron Mansker and the city of Coronado. Mansker remains under investigation.
* More than a week after an alleged dog-fighting ring was uncovered on property owned by Michael Vick, the Atlanta Falcons still are declining comment about their quarterback's potential legal problems. The Falcons apparently want authorities to reveal more details on the investigation before they comment on Vick's possible involvement in the case.
* Buffalo signed free agent Josh Scobey, adding to its depth at running back and special teams. Scobey, a 5-year veteran, appeared in 12 games last season with Seattle before breaking an arm against Denver on Dec. 3. He returned 17 kickoffs for 315 yards.
Also, the Bills claimed former Dolphins defensive tackle Manny Wright on waivers. *