Southern Living

This Alabamian was involved in a landmark court case for artists' rights. Tuscaloosa, Alabama-based artist Rick Rush had no plans of changing American artists’ lives when he began his career. But he did have prayers.

Rick’s late brother Don was his longtime business partner, and when the two first started out, they had a praying and planning time for their future business. One of the things they included on their prayer list was to “impact the arts for good.” The brothers were unaware how abundantly that prayer would be answered.

Like many Southerners, Rush was in love with sports as a young child, and he began painting at 5 or 6 years old. Combining his love of sports and art led him to his career as, well, a sports artist.

Rush’s print titled “The Masters of Augusta” featured scenes from the 1997 Masters golf tournament, including an image of Tiger Woods, that year’s winner. Woods’ agents told Rush that he could not use Woods’ name, photograph, or likeness. Rush disagreed, and they went to court.

Hearing “there’s no way you will win it” by many people only encouraged Rush to move forward with the lawsuit. Rush persevered in a legal battle against a giant in the athletic world because he believed in his work and cause.

“We were right in that artists had the freedom of speech to create and to capture our lives in America,” Rush said.

And he was right. Rush’s side won in both district and circuit courts. Before the case reached the Supreme Court, the opposing side dropped it, and Rush won a legal victory for all artists.

“It’s really interesting that our case became a landmark decision that other cases have been built off of,” Rush said.

And it all started with a simple prayer.

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