American Idol victor Ruben Studdard was secretly paid to wear what became his signature '205' jersey shirts during the competition, according to the company he's now suing.

Owners of hip-hop clothing maker 205 FLAVA INC say Studdard was handed money to wear the company's bright jerseys on the hit TV contest - despite a ban by the show on such deals.

A lawyer for owners WILLIE and FREDERICK JENKINS responded Monday to a lawsuit filed by Studdard last week accusing the brothers of wrongly profiting from his image as the second American Idol winner.

At a news conference the Jenkins' lawyer LaVEEDA MORGAN BATTLE showed copies of $10,000 (GBP6,250) in cheques made out to Studdard's brother KEVIN STUDDARD and his manager RON EDWARDS.

Battle says Studdard told the Jenkins brothers to "keep this confidential" because the Fox network prohibits contestants from entering into contracts while on the show.

Studdard's lawyer BYRON PERKINS says, "The public will hear from us soon."

Studdard approached 205 Flava around March (03) about being paid to wear the jerseys on the show, says Battle. He asked for $10,000 (GBP6,250) a week to wear the merchandise, and payments eventually grew to $15,000 (GBP9,375) a week as the singer advanced in the show, continues Battle.

Battle notes, "The payments were made as full and fair compensation."

Studdard claims it was his idea to print 205 - the area code of his hometown Birmingham - in large numbers across the jerseys. Battle says the design was used before Studdard ever wore them.

Studdard's lawsuit also says the men weren't authorised to use his image to promote their jerseys on the company's website. They didn't remove the image immediately because they were hoping to reach a deal with Studdard's management, says Battle.

07/08/2003 08:58