NFL Retirees Reach Accord With League Over Image Rights

The National Football League and retired players who sued over the uncompensated use of their likenesses for promotions asked a U.S. judge for preliminary approval of a $50 million settlement.

The accord provides for $42 million to be paid over eight years into a fund for the benefit of retired players, according to papers filed yesterday in federal court in St. Paul, Minnesota, where the case was brought. U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson has scheduled a hearing on the proposal for March 22 in federal court in Fort Myers, Florida.

A complaint accusing the league of trading on the “glory days” of the NFL was filed in 2009 by six players including former Los Angeles Ram Fred Dryer, Houston Oilers Dante “Dan” Pastorini and Elvin Bethea and the Minnesota Vikings’ Jim Marshall, on behalf of all of their retired colleagues.

“The retired players who created these glory days, however, have gone almost completely uncompensated for this use of their identities,” the players alleged in a revised complaint submitted to the court yesterday.

The new fund will be overseen by a panel of retired players approved by the court and run separately from the 32-team league and the NFL Players’ Association.

While the bulk of the settlement will be go toward medical research, housing assistance and career transition programs, $8 million will be devoted to the initial operations of the new licensing agency and to litigation costs, according to a settlement information website.

The accord comes at a time when the league faces lawsuits from more than 4,000 former players claiming the NFL concealed the threat to players’ health of repeated and often concussive blows to the head.

The league has asked a Philadelphia federal court judge to dismiss a consolidated complaint pending there, arguing that player health issues must be decided by arbitration under the league’s collective bargaining agreements and are not subject to litigation.

Brian McCarthy, a league spokesman, confirmed details of yesterday’s licensing case settlement in an e-mailed statement. The preliminary approval hearing will be held in Fort Myers because Magnuson is on temporary assignment there, McCarthy said.

“We look forward to building an unprecedented new relationship with retired players that will benefit everybody, especially those who need extra medical or financial assistance,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in the same e- mailed statement.

Players’ lawyer Michael Hausfeld called the accord the start of a new relations between the league and “the people who made the game of football what it is today,”

“For the first time, retired NFL players will be able to speak with one voice to advocate for the health and welfare of themselves and their teammates,” Hausfeld said.

The case is Dryer v. National Football League, 09-cv-2182, U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota (St. Paul).

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Harris in the Chicago federal courthouse at

aharris16@bloomberg.net

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

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