SBD/August 21, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Curley Culp, John Riggins Lead New Lawsuit Against NFL Films Regarding Image Use

Former Redskins RB Riggins is one of the plaintiffs involved in the new suit
A new group of NFL retirees yesterday filed a lawsuit against NFL Films, claiming the NFL is using their images without their permission. The filing comes with a deadline next week for players to opt out of the preliminarily court-approved settlement of a similar lawsuit that was filed four years ago. In that case, Dryer v NFL, the original six plaintiffs oppose the $50M settlement, saying it does not compensate retirees appropriately. Fred Dryer is quoted supporting the new action in a press release from the law firm, Hagens Berman, bringing the latest case, Culp v NFL Films, NFL. The new lawsuit also makes a new claim of false endorsement, meaning viewers of NFL films are left with the perception the retirees endorse the videos. Only players who opt out of the Dryer v NFL settlement are eligible to be part of the new lawsuit. The new suit also means that the $50M proposed settlement of Dryer v NFL would now get smaller. That is because the agreement calls for up to $13M of it to be used to pay legal defenses for lawsuits filed by players who opted out of the Dryer settlement. Of the $50M, $6M is for legal fees, $42M for retiree charities, and the remainder for a licensing agency. The $42M gets reduced now. One of the lawyers applying for legal fees from the original case, Bob Stein, opposes the settlement and is part of the new case. Hagens Berman represents former Arizona State QB Sam Keller in Keller v Electronic Arts. The Ninth Circuit court of appeals recently rejected EA’s First Amendment defense against Keller’s claim that the video game maker was using his image without compensation and permission. Culp v NFL Films cites that decision. The NFL defense against the retirees has been that they signed away their rights with their playing contracts, and the league owns rights to the games. The named plaintiffs in Culp v NFL are Curley Culp, John Riggins, Dave Casper, Phil Villapiano, Tom Mack, Joe Kapp, Roman Gabriel, Mike Bass and Willie Buchanon.

NFL RESPONSE: The NFL issued a statement in response to the lawsuit that read, "We are disappointed that a few retired players believe that additional litigation will be productive in the face of Judge Magnuson's decision in April finding that the settlement negotiated under the close supervision of the court is fair and reasonable. We agree with the Judge that the settlement will benefit the large class of retired players particularly those in need of medical and financial assistance."
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