Lawsuit alleges Carrie Underwood stole 'Sunday Night Football' theme song

Yahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports

For NFL fans, Sunday nights in the fall start with the now-familiar strains of “Game On” and country music star Carrie Underwood singing the theme song for “Sunday Night Football” on NBC.

But one songwriter says it’s not Underwood’s song at all, and she’s filed a lawsuit.

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‘Substantially – even strikingly – similar’

On Wednesday, singer-songwriter Heidi Merrill filed lawsuit against Underwood in federal court in New York City, claiming Underwood copied her song – which is also called “Game On.”

According to the suit, Merrill says she wrote and recorded the song in 2016, and she pitched the song to one of Underwood’s producers, Mark Bright, a year later at a Nashville conference.

Country music star Carrie Underwood and several others, including the NFL, are being sued by singer-songwriter who claims Underwood stole the "Sunday Night Football" theme song from her. (Getty Images)
Country music star Carrie Underwood and several others, including the NFL, are being sued by singer-songwriter who claims Underwood stole the "Sunday Night Football" theme song from her. (Getty Images)

Merrill even pitched it as Underwood’s next “SNF” theme. Underwood, who rose to fame after winning “American Idol” over a decade ago, has been the “SNF” opener since 2013.

Through an assistant, Bright told Merrill he’d “have to pass.”

But the song Underwood now sings, Merrill alleges, is “substantially – even strikingly – similar, if not identical” to her song, citing the title, tempo, meter, time signatures, hooks, chord progression and other specifics.

“The Defendants knowingly, willfully, and intentionally copied original, copyrightable elements of the Plaintiffs’ original Work,” the suit says. “Publicly performed or displayed the Infringing Song, and otherwise violated the Plaintiffs’ exclusive copyrights in the Work for substantial personal and commercial gain.”

Merrill’s complaint lists Underwood, Bright, the NFL, NBC, EMI Entertainment and Warner Chappell Music.

She is seeking an injunction and an unspecified amount in damages.

‘We will aggressively seek to vindicate our client’s rights’

In a statement to Billboard magazine, Merrill’s attorney Timothy Foster said Merrill has been exploited.

“Federal copyright laws are designed to protect the authors of original creative works, including our clients who wrote the original song ‘Game On’ in 2016 and submitted it for Carrie Underwood’s consideration through her producer,” Foster said. “As alleged in our complaint, after Ms. Underwood’s representatives indicated that they were not interested in using ‘Game On,’ Ms. Underwood, with help from the other Defendants, released her new ‘Sunday Night Football’ theme song with the same title, which is substantially similar to our clients’ original ‘Game On’ in numerous respects.

“This type of exploitation is precisely what our copyright laws are designed to protect against,” he continues, “and we will aggressively seek to vindicate our clients’ rights in the original song they created.”

Underwood and Bright faced a similar lawsuit in 2017, when they were accused of copying “Something in the Water,” but that claim was dismissed.

What do you think? Did Underwood steal Merrill’s song? Watch them below.

Here’s Merrill’s version:

And here’s Underwood’s:

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