NEW YORK — A country singer with ties to Nebraska has sued Carrie Underwood, the NFL and NBC, saying they stole a song and "slightly modified" it as the intro to "Sunday Night Football."
The lawsuit in Manhattan federal court noted that Underwood's "Game On" even carried the same title as the song that singer Heidi Merrill, a Nebraska native now living in California, put on an internet music video two years ago.
The plaintiffs are a songwriting team consisting of four individuals, including Merrill.
The lawsuit said Merrill assembled the group to create the song in 2016 as a follow to her Nebraska-themed football anthem "Cornhusker Strong."
It said the group marketed the song, aiming to get it licensed for use in television broadcasts of sporting events.
"Get up, get loud/Make your mamma proud/Game on!" Merrill sings in the rousing tune.
"When the chips are down/Pump up the sound/Cause we all know this song/This is sacred ground/We don't mess around."
Merrill alleges that Underwood's producer, Mark Bright, swiped the song after the two crossed paths at a Nashville conference in August 2017. Merrill had pitched her song, which she thought would be a good fit for Underwood if the NBC tune was revised, the suit says. Merrill then followed up by sending an email of "Game On."
Underwood's team allegedly told her "we're going to have to pass." But Merrill says in reality the hit country singer used her song for gridiron inspiration.
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Underwood will play a concert Sunday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The suit says Underwood's tune unveiled at the start of the 2018 NFL season is "strikingly" similar to Merrill's in "tempo, meter, time signature, rhythmic contours and patterns, melodic contours and patterns, hooks … and chord progression."
"Game on!/Hey it's Sunday night/Game on!/Hey turn up the light/America's game on NBC/The only place to be," Underwood hollers.
Merrill seeks damages to be determined at trial for copyright infringement.
A spokesman for NBC Sports did not respond to an inquiry. An Underwood representative also did not return a message.
The Underwood version of the song was sacked by critics from the moment it debuted. Football fans said it was inferior to Faith Hill's "Waiting All Day For Sunday Night" theme song from previous NFL seasons.
Underwood herself responded to the criticism.
"Hey, I know my music isn't for everyone, but I love what I do and I love being a part of (Sunday Night Football)! I am one lucky lady!"
Underwood is the most decorated act in the history of the CMT Music Awards, with 20 career wins, including this year's video of the year for "Cry Pretty" and female video of the year for "Love Wins."