Retired Football Players Score Touchdown Over Royalties From Video Game

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Retired Football Players Score Touchdown Over Royalties From Video Game

Wed Nov 12, 2008 @ 12:00AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

NflA San Francisco federal jury has ordered the National Football League Players Association to pay $28.1 million to 2,062 former NFL players as a result of breaching its fiduciary duty to the retired players and violating the terms of the players' group licensing agreements (GLE).

In contention were royalties derived from the EA football game "Madden NFL." The game included 143 vintage teams, according to Ronald Katz, a partner at Manatt, who is representing the retired players. "We are extremely gratified and pleased for the thousands of former NFL players--heroes, really, who built the game of pro football - who were betrayed by their union," Katz said.

Union lawyer Jeffrey Kessler says the verdict, including $21 million in punitive damages, was "unjust" and that it will be overturned on appeal.

This case dovetailed two contentious issues in the world of sports entertainment. First, the relationship between a union, whose bread-and-butter is the financial health of its current members, and former players. Second, value derived from licensing rights of publicity.

In the lawsuit, an e-mail from the union was exposed that instructed EA to “scramble” the images of retired players. The plaintiffs deemed this to be evidence that the union had intentionally broken obligations made in the GLE.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to

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