U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman ruled Wednesday the ad by Jewel-Osco, which appeared in a Sports Illustrated issue commemorating Jordan's induction to the Basketball Hall of Fame three years ago, was "non-commercial speech" and protected by the First Amendment, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The ad featured a pair of basketball shoes and the text "Jewel-Osco salutes #23 on his many accomplishments as we honor a fellow Chicagoan who was 'just around the corner' for so many years."
"The page does not propose any kind of commercial transaction," Feinerman said. "The reader would see the Jewel page for precisely what it is -- a tribute by an established Chicago business to Chicago's most accomplished athlete."
Feinerman postponed ruling on whether to toss out the case until the parties submit detailed briefs next month.
Jordan's attorney, Fred Sperling, said, "We disagree with the court's ruling. Jewel's witnesses testified that Jewel used Michael's identity in its ad to promote its goods and services. That is an admission that the ad was commercial speech."
A Jewel-Osco spokesman issued a statement saying the company was satisfied with the judge's ruling.
"We continue to believe that we acted appropriately and that we will prevail in this matter," said spokesman Mike Siemienas.