Retired National Football League players have won a $US28 million verdict against the NFL's players union, in a federal lawsuit alleging they were cheated by a sweetheart deal the union struck with Electronic Arts over the use of ex-players' images in the Madden franchise. Three quarters of that figure are punitive damages. The verdict will almost certainly be appealed.
The allegations, according to the lawsuit and an open letter written to John Madden back in September, charge that Take-Two's brief entry into the football sim market earlier this decade caused EA and the Union to strike a fast, below-market deal locking up certain Hall of Fame players' images in Madden.
Other players alleged that their likenesses are identifiable and used, without permission, among the 143 vintage teams included or unlockable in Madden over the years. They got their hands on communications showing how EA and the Union attempted to "scramble" the appearances by giving them different numbers, but players contended they were still reasonably identified by traits such as position, playing statistics, and the years they played.
A federal jury in San Francisco ruled for the players, awarding them $US7.1 million for the use of their likenesses and $US20.9 million in punitive damages.
"There are 143 vintage team games from Electronic Arts. These are teams that are people's favorite,'' the players' attorney told the jury. "These men did nothing but trust their union.'' The union argued that only active players were covered by the agreements.
"The decision is contrary to the law and it's an unjust verdict and we are confident it will be overturned,'' said union lawyer Jeffrey Kessler.
The lead plaintiff in the suit was Herb Adderley, a former defensive back with the Green Bay Packers who played from 1961 to 1972.
Retired NFL Players Win $28 Million in Royalties From Union [Bloomberg News]