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League, union seek dismissal of players' suit

ATLANTA (Aug. 21, 2006) -- The NFL and its union say a lawsuit filed by six current and former players seeking to recoup $20 million they lost in an alleged fraud scheme should be dismissed, arguing in part that league players are solely responsible for their own finances.

The league and players association filed papers in federal court Aug. 18 in Atlanta seeking to dismiss the lawsuit, which was initially filed in June.

Lawyers for the NFL wrote that the players' collective bargaining agreement "established that players shall bear all responsibility for their personal finances." They also said that the agreement requires arbitration, not litigation, of disputes such as the ones raised in the lawsuit.

"That agreement provides an exclusive remedy -- arbitration -- for any and all claims, such as those presented here, that involve interpretation or application of any element of the agreement," league attorneys Gregg Levy and Earl Gunn wrote.

The papers filed by the players association seek to dismiss the lawsuit on similar grounds.

The lawsuit claims the union endorsed the services of an investment firm even though its manager had liens against him.

In the lawsuit, the players said the league and the NFLPA are liable for the losses because of investments with hedge fund manager Kirk Wright.

Wright was arrested in Miami Beach in May on federal fraud charges. He also faces a lawsuit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission against him and his company, International Management Associates.

According to authorities, Wright and his company collected as much as $185 million from at least 500 investors since 1997 and used false statements and documents to mislead some of them to believe the value of those investments was increasing. Much of that money is now missing.

The lawsuit against the league and union initially included seven plaintiffs, but Marco Coleman's name was dropped from the lawsuit in an amended complaint filed on July 14.

The players still listed as plaintiffs are Steve Atwater, Ray Crockett, Al Smith, Blaine Bishop, Carlos Emmons and Clyde Simmons.

The new complaint also listed two new defendants, "ABC Corp." and "XYZ Corp." The suit describes those entities as "John Doe" companies whose true names are unknown to the plaintiffs, but were supposed to perform certain background checks for the NFL and NFLPA.

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