Wednesday, August 06, 2003
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Owners of hip-hop clothing maker 205 Flava Inc. say they secretly paid Ruben Studdard to wear the company's bright jerseys on "American Idol," despite a ban by the program on such deals.
A lawyer for owners Willie and Frederick Jenkins responded Monday to a lawsuit filed by Studdard last week accusing the brothers of wrongly profiting from his image as the second "American Idol" winner.
The Jenkins' lawyer, at a news conference, showed copies of $10,000 in checks made out to Studdard's brother, Kevin Studdard, and his manager, Ron Edwards.
Lawyer LaVeeda Morgan Battle, who spoke on behalf of the Jenkins brothers, said Studdard told them to "keep this confidential" because the Fox network prohibits "American Idol" contestants from entering into contracts while on the show.
Studdard refused comment Monday. "The public will hear from us soon," said Studdard's lawyer, Byron Perkins.
Willie Jenkins had told The Birmingham News about the payments in a June interview. "When he wore the clothing, we paid him," he said at the time.
Studdard approached 205 Flava around March about being paid to wear the jerseys on the show, Battle said.
He asked for $1,000 a week to wear the merchandise, and payments eventually grew to $1,500 a week as the singer advanced in the show, Battle said.
"The payments were made as full and fair compensation," Battle said.
"We have major sponsors like Old Navy ," said Michael Jaffa, vice president of business and legal affairs for American Idol Productions Inc., explaining the ban on outside contracts. "There were issues promoting a brand in competition with our sponsors."
Studdard's lawsuit says it was his idea to print 205 — the area code of his hometown, Birmingham — in large numbers across the jerseys. Battle said that design was used before Studdard ever wore them.
Studdard's lawsuit also says the men weren't authorized to use his image to promote their jerseys on the company's Web site. They didn't remove the image immediately because they were hoping to reach a deal with Studdard's management, Battle said.