A federal lawsuit alleges that NBCUniversal, the National Football League, and recording artist Carrie Underwood are among those who plagiarized a YouTube song to create the Sunday Night Football opening theme song “Game On” that precedes the athletic action. SNF is typically one of the primetime ratings leaders during its season and a bright spot for the televised NFL games.
The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York by songwriters Heidi Merrill, Alex Wong, Jeff Cohen and Niclas Lundin, who claim they created a slightly different version of the Sunday Night Football theme song performed by Underwood. Read the complaint here.
The lawsuit also names various Underwood-affiliated music publishers and her recording company, as well as songwriters Chris DeStefano, Brett James and Underwood producer Mark Bright.
Merrill and her collaborators claimed they created their “Game On” song in June 2016 and uploaded it to YouTube on March 17, 2017. The song was later featured on CBS’s “Inside College Basketball.”
She then emailed the song to Underwood’s producer, Mark Bright, who allegedly said, “We’re going to have to pass.” The legal complaint alleges a “strikingly similar” intro song then premiered for Sunday Night Football’s 2018 season.
Sam P. Israel, the managing partner of Sam P. Israel PC, called the alleged plagiarism “a blatant attempt by a celebrity singer to rip off other artists’ work, and it won’t be tolerated. It’s indefensible to steal music created by hard-working songwriters and then broadcast that theft on national television.”
Here are the two versions:
Heidi Merrill version: “Game On”
Sunday Night Football version: “Game On”
Merrill is a Pop/Country/Rock recording artist, model and actress, and recently opened for headliners Howie Day, Tyler Hilton, and Anna Nalick on their tours. The actress has appeared on the shows Hope and Faith, Gossip Girl, and in several international commercials.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league would decline comment. An NBC Sports spokeperson said that the network doesn’t comment on pending litigation. The other defendants could not immediately be reached.