SAN FRANCISCO (Feb. 15, 2007) -- Two former NFL players are accusing the league's union of inadequately representing them and the 3,500 retired players in licensing deals and allege the player's association may owe millions of dollars in licensing fees.
In a lawsuit filed Feb. 15 in U.S. District Court, former players Bernard Parrish and Herb Adderley say the NFL Players Union's arm that handles licensing arrangements has done little to secure licensing deals with clothing manufacturers, video game makers and other venues. The suit seeks class-action status to represent the 3,500 retired players, which it says may be owed "tens of millions of dollars."
Parrish was a defensive back with the Cleveland Browns and Houston Oilers from 1959 to 1966. Adderley was a cornerback for the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys from 1961 through 1972.
The lawsuit claims that $7 million was given to 358 retired players in 2005, meaning a small percentage of players have been compensated.
"Defendant has not made diligent efforts to generate revenue for plaintiffs. Almost 90 percent of the class receive no money," the lawsuit says. "Defendant has not allocated opportunities to plaintiffs in any fair or equitable manner. Defendant has not, on information and belief, distributed revenues to plaintiffs that should have been distributed."
The suit also demands that the National Football League Players Inc., as the union's licensing arm is known, open more of its books to players.
Gene Upshaw, the union's executive director, called the lawsuit "baseless."
"We will vigorously defend it. We look forward to showing what we do for retired players," he said.
Upshaw said Parrish has never agreed to sign a licensing deal, and one Adderley signed expired in 2005.
Adderley, for example, claims he didn't receive any compensation from the union for licensing his name to Reebok.
"I think they have a lot of explaining to do," said Ronald Katz, the lawyer for Parrish and Adderley.
The case is Parrish v. National Football League Players Inc., 07-0943.