(CN) – Retired NFL players filed a federal class action against the league in Minneapolis, saying the NFL profits from the reputations they made before the era of multimillion-dollar salaries, while paying nothing to the retirees, many of whom are permanently injured. The six named plaintiffs include Hall-of-Famer Elvin Bethea and quarterback Dan Pastorini.
The players from the 1960s and ’70s say the NFL and its filmmaking arm, NFL Films, has made billions of dollars by repackaging and selling the identities of thousands of retired football players.
Many retired players, especially those from the days of relatively low salaries and modest endorsement deals, suffer from multiple injuries and have trouble getting health care, the players say.
The league “trades on the ‘glory days’ of the NFL as a marketing and advertising technique to enhance the NFL’s brand awareness and increase its revenue,” the class claims. “The retired players who created those glory days, however, have gone almost completely uncompensated for this use of their identities.”
NFL Films produces cinematic retellings of games, featuring slow-motion spirals and storytelling it sells to networks and individuals. These films depend on the images of retired players who are not paid for it, the class claims.
Not until 1993 did the NFL begin requiring players to sign contracts allowing the league to use their images and identities for marketing and promotion, according to the complaint.
The NFL took in an estimated $6.9 billion in 2008, the players say.
The plaintiffs include Bethea, Pastorini, John Frederick Dryer – who gained fame after football as TV’s “Hunter” – Jim Marshall, Edward Alvin White, and Joseph.
They seek damages for false endorsement, violations of right of publicity and unjust enrichment. Their lead counsel is Bob Stein of Eden Prairie.