Whether it is an admission of guilt or they just wanted the matter to go away – you be the judge – is probably irrelevant at this point, but the NFL Players Association was ordered by a jury on Monday to pay $28.1 million in damages to retired players after finding that the union failed to properly market their images. The dollar amount includes $21 million in punitive damages, just short of the requested $21.9 million award that the players’ lawyer had submitted to the jury which reflected about 10% of the net worth of the union at the start of this year. Not surprisingly, the union lawyer had asked the jury to award a far lesser amount so as not to damage the union’s ability to represent its players.
Initially, Hall of Fame cornerback Herb Adderley had filed the lawsuit last year on behalf of the 2,056 retired players who contend that the union failed to actively pursue marketing deals on their behalf with video games, sports cards and other sports products. During the nearly three-week trial, lawyers representing Adderley and the retired players told the jury that the union actively sought to cut them out of licensing deals in order for active players could receive larger royalty payments; a piece of evidence presented during the trial was a 2001 letter from an NFLPA executive requesting that Electronic Arts Inc executives scramble the images of retired players in the company’s popular “Madden NFL” video game, otherwise the union would have to pay the retired players.
Oddly enough, said Madden game contains 143 “vintage” teams inundated with no-name players that closely resemble Adderley and other retired NFL players; the retirees’ lawyer, Ronald Katz, had urged the jury to punish the union with a large award so the union would “change their conduct”.