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Drew Brees Backs Players’ Legal Fight Against NFL, Owners

March 15 (Bloomberg) -- Drew Brees said he’s looking after past, present and future players in putting his name on a lawsuit against the National Football League.

The New Orleans Saints’ quarterback is one of 10 named plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit that seeks to block a lockout imposed by owners. The case was filed March 11 after more than two weeks of talks with a federal mediator in Washington failed to produce a deal about how to compensate players.

Brees, who was voted Sports Illustrated’s 2010 Sportsman of the Year, said owners in the richest and most popular U.S. sports league want to impose unfair wage and benefit restrictions. The NFL’s revenue topped $9 billion last season and five weeks ago its Super Bowl title game attracted the biggest television audience in American history.

“The reason I’m one of the lead plaintiffs for our case is because it’s important to me,” Brees told reporters on a conference call organized by the NFL Players Association, which abandoned its role in labor negotiations to facilitate the lawsuit. “I feel strongly about our case. I feel strongly about the facts and the law.”

The owners, in a filing with the National Labor Relations Board, have called the players’ action “a sham.”

A hearing is set for April 6 in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.

Players on yesterday’s call declined to comment on a report by ESPN.com, citing multiple unidentified people in the league, that the association may ask college prospects to skip the NFL’s draft, scheduled to begin April 28 in New York City.

Future players are represented in the lawsuit’s class by Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller.

Contract Talks

Those who participated in talks at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in Washington said they were frustrated and angry at NFL owners, who wanted players to make concessions on pay without showing them proof they were needed.

Sean Morey, a retired player and member of the union’s executive committee, said NFL players should be compensated better for the extraordinary risks they take.

“We assume the most risk, playing the most dangerous game, and we’re expected to be compensated the least of all the players in the four major sports leagues,” he said.

The average salary for NFL players is $1.8 million, the lowest of the four major North American pro sports leagues. The average salary in the National Basketball Association is more than $5 million; in Major League Baseball it is $3 million, and in the National Hockey League it is $2.4 million, according to Forbes magazine.

Brees said owners have said costs are rising faster than league revenue, without showing players data.

“That’s not the way business works, especially when you have a partnership like our players do with our owners,” Brees said. “A reasonable, logical businessman would say, ‘Let’s see those numbers.’”

To contact the reporter on this story: Aaron Kuriloff in New York at akuriloff@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net.

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