NFL Retirees Can’t Sue Players Association Over Contract

National Football League retirees can’t sue the players association over claims it favored current players and rookies in negotiating a labor contract with the league, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson in Minneapolis yesterday dismissed the lawsuit, saying the National Football League Players Association had no legal duty to the retired players that could support the suit.

The court “recognizes and acknowledges the plight of retired players and is empathetic to their concerns,” Nelson wrote in her opinion. She said her conclusion that “there is no genuine dispute” the court can resolve means she doesn’t need to address the players association’s remaining defense.

The retired players sued last year, claiming current players shortchanged them in negotiations with the league, cutting back a commitment to increase pensions to pre-1993 retirees and changing post-career medical options. The retirees sued as a group, seeking class-action status to represent all retired NFL players. The retirees asked the court to give them bargaining rights with the league.

Eller, Bednarik

Current players and the union have a “conflict of interest” in representing retirees, former players said in the complaint. Ex-players Carl Eller, Chuck Bednarik, Lem Barney and 25 others asked the judge to set aside issues related to retirees in the current contract and require renegotiation.

Michael Hausfeld, a lawyer for the retirees, didn’t immediately respond to a call or e-mail after regular business hours yesterday seeking comment on the ruling. George Atallah, a spokesman for the association, also didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment after regular business hours yesterday.

The lawsuit named as defendants the association, its executive director, DeMaurice Smith, and players Tom Brady and Mike Vrabel. Brady and Vrabel were among a group of players who sued the league and its teams, claiming violations of U.S. antitrust laws. Their lawsuit, filed in federal court in St. Paul, Minnesota, was dropped after players and the league agreed on a new contract.

The case is Eller v. National Football League Players Association, 11-cv-02623, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (Minneapolis).

To contact the reporters on this story: Joel Rosenblatt in San Francisco at jrosenblatt@bloomberg.net; Edvard Pettersson in Los Angeles at epettersson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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