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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Retired NFL Players Say Union Stiffed Them

LOS ANGELES (CN) - A class of retired NFL players wants the NFL Players Association to pay $5 million in damages for unpaid licensing royalties.

In their federal complaint, named plaintiffs Ronald Brown, Charles Detwiler and Dwight Hicks say they were improperly excluded from a settlement in Adderley et al. vs. NFLPA, brought in 2007 by a class of more than 2,000 retired NFL players who had signed a group licensing authorization (GLA) form with the players union.

"The plaintiffs in this case were excluded from the settlement in the Adderley Action on the grounds that they did not have and/or did not produce a signed GLA with the class certified language or were not listed on the formal certified class list. However, regardless of the settlement in the Adderley Action, according to the testimony of an officer of NFLPA and NFL Players, a GLA is not a prerequisite for participation in defendants' group licensing program.

"Moreover, within the last four years plaintiffs and the class have been wrongfully denied licensing royalties in connection with licensing opportunities entered into between defendants and third parties. Plaintiffs allege that defendants have breached their fiduciary duties to them and the class in connection with licensing their names, likenesses, pictures, photographs, voices, facsimile signatures and/or biographical information ... to third parties and/or failing to market and license their names and likenesses as obligated to do," the complaint states.

The class claims that despite the Adderley settlement and efforts to solicit retired players into the group licensing program, the NFLPA "continues to fail to make any effort to market retired players."

The players say the NFLPA received more than $200 million in revenue from lucrative agreements with NFL sponsors and third parties, including Electronic Arts, maker of the popular Madden video game. Other licensed products include trading cards, TV and radio shows and personal appearances.

"These funds have purportedly been placed into a common fund for distribution to NFLPA members. However, plaintiffs and the class have yet to receive any remuneration from defendants from those funds," the complaint states.

The players add: "Defendants owed plaintiffs and each represented NFLPA member a fiduciary duty to act in a fair and equitable manner consistent with the best interests of the retired players. Instead, defendants have acted in an arbitrary, capricious and inequitable manner, contrary to their fiduciary obligations, in order to line their own coffers."

The players seek an accounting, and punitive damages for breach of fiduciary duty. They are represented by Maxwell Blecher.

The National Football League Players Inc. dba NFL Players is also named as a defendant.

Neither the plaintiffs' law firm nor the NFLPA responded to requests for comment.

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