Only 10 Percent of Those Represented by Union’s Commercial Licensing Arm Receive Payments
LOS ANGELES & PALO ALTO, Calif.–LAWFUEL – Sports Law News –A betrayal of trust of former All-Pro defensive back Bernard P. Parrish, Hall of Fame defensive back Herbert A. Adderley and more than 3,000 other retired football players is at the center of a class-action lawsuit filed by Manatt, Phelps and Phillips and McKool Smith late yesterday in federal court in San Francisco against Players Inc., the licensing and marketing subsidiary of the National Football League Players Association, the players’ union. The retired players claim that they are owed tens of millions of dollars for licensing and other payments not made since 1994.
The lawsuit alleges breach of fiduciary duty by Players Inc. and claims that the retired athletes were not paid royalty and other payments from licensing and marketing opportunities using their names and images. The lawsuit states that an accounting of Players Inc.’s $750,000,000 secretive licensing business will disclose that the retired players, 90 percent of whom have received no payments, have been cheated since the day Players Inc. was formed.
“Players Inc. has completely failed to comply with the duty of trust that it owes as the agent of these players,” said Ronald S. Katz, the lead counsel for the retired players, who is a partner at Manatt. “These players built the game before the era of big salaries. Because the pensions they receive from the Union are not enough to live on and because many of these players are disabled, they need these royalty payments just to make ends meet. Given the Players Inc. and NFLPA documents attached to the complaint, I would not be surprised to see a congressional investigation of the Union.”
Co-counsel Lewis LeClair, a partner of the McKool Smith law firm in Dallas, Texas, added, “If you purport to represent all of the players but only pay a fraction of them, that is neither fair nor legal. Players Inc. has a duty to act in the best interest of all those they represent, not to ignore the vast majority of them.”
Founded in 1994, Players Inc. is responsible for marketing active and retired players through licensed products such as trading cards and video games. According to the lawsuit, the organization actively solicited retired players with promises of great benefits. The retired players claim that although Players Inc. has developed a business worth hundreds of millions of dollars by claiming to represent such a large group, 90 percent of the retired players have not shared in this benefit; because Players Inc. has refused to give the retired players useful information on its finances, they have not been able to protect themselves against the organization that was supposedly acting in their interests.
Parrish, who has been an advocate for retired players for 40 years, noted that in 2006 the U.S. Department of Labor increased the amount of information that the Players’ Union had to report.
“Shortly after the players’ union made that report,” said Parrish, “I noted that the top four officers of Players Inc. announced their resignations. That’s when I called a lawyer.”
“I could not get Players Inc. to answer my phone calls,” said Adderley. “I do not call that adequate representation for the hard work that I put into my football career.”
“The retired players need representation on issues like this,” noted Parrish. “That gap will now be filled by a new organization that will be born out of this lawsuit, Retired Professional Football Players for Justice. We will be making an announcement about that shortly.”
Parrish is a former defensive back who starred with the Cleveland Browns from 1959 through 1966. He led the defense of that team to a world championship in 1964. Adderley is a former cornerback who played for the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys from 1961 through 1972. He played in four of the first six Super Bowl games and is one of two players in professional football to play on six world championship teams.
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