NBA

Michael Jordan and Jeanie Buss Are Being Sued Over a Tequila Ad

An adage in the public relations business says that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Well, the drink seen next to Michael Jordan during his interview segments on The Last Dance documentary series has brought some unwanted attention to His Airness and several other big names in NBA circles.

Sunday’s ‘The Last Dance’ episodes brought a Monday lawsuit

A Los Angeles photographer is suing Cincoro, the tequila company whose partners include retired NBA great Michael Jordan and Los Angeles Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss. Anais Ganouna filed papers Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles alleging copyright infringement, claiming Cincoro used her photos last year on its website and in advertising without her permission.

The suit also alleges fraud, civil conspiracy, and unfair competition. Ganouna, who is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, says she was hired to do a photoshoot for the high-end tequila brand last summer. Ganouna was subsequently told that her photos would not be used and that another photographer would re-shoot the campaign, the suit says.

However, Ganouna noticed last September that images that looked like her work were shown on the Cincoro website, on social media, and in ads. She collected screenshots that she alleges were published by Cincoro and other parties without a license or permission, the lawsuit says.

Who are Michael Jordan’s tequila partners?

The Cincoro name of the tequila brand co-owned by Michael Jordan represents the five partners meshed with the Spanish word for gold. The partners are all NBA owners: Jordan, who is the principal owner of the Charlotte Hornets; the Lakers’ Jeanie Buss; Milwaukee Bucks owner Wes Edens; and Boston Celtics co-owners Wyc Grousbeck and Emilia Fazzalar, his wife.

The group reportedly traveled to Jalisco, Mexico, to scout out distilleries to produce their tequila line, which offers Blanco, Reposado, Anejo, and Extra Anejo blends.

The Extra Anejo blend in a black crystal bottle sells for $1,600.

What is it about celebrities and tequila?

It has become difficult to leaf through a sports or celebrity magazine without running across at least one advertisement for tequila with a celebrity connection. Numerous stars from the music and movie industries got involved before Michael Jordan did, with some likely inspired by actor George Clooney’s bonanza.

Clooney launched the Casamigos brand with the husband of model Cindy Crawford and another associate in 2013 and turned the business into a monster that Diageo gobbled up for a reported $1 billion in 2017.

Rap maven Sean “Puffy” Combs got into the business shortly after Clooney did, hawking the DeLeon brand after buying 50% of it from Diageo in 2014 to expand a relationship that began with him promoting vodka.

Sammy Hagar and Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine launched their Santo Mezquila blend in 2017, and fellow entertainer Justin Timberlake has had a brand since 2009.

In the sports world, wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson got into the game this year with the debut of the Mana brand.