SBJ/Feb. 7-13, 2011/Opinion

Marketing interest not equal for all NFL retirees

Your article on the new relationship between 16W and NFL Alumni [SportsBusiness Journal, Jan. 24-30] mischaracterizes my testimony in the Parrish case. I agree with George Martin that a vibrant market exists for retired players, but only for some players. An undisputed fact in the Parrish case, which my testimony supported, is that NFL Players (formerly Players Inc) paid millions of dollars to hundreds of retired players over the years in question in the suit. In fact, each of the hundreds of retired players whose names and images were provided by Players Inc to a licensee was paid by Players Inc. Companies were then, and are now, willing to pay for the right to use hundreds of well-known and marketable former players such as Joe Namath or Jim Brown, but they were then, and are now, much less interested in using the thousands of average retired players who are relatively anonymous. What companies did not do then, and do not want to do now, is pay extra for the opportunity to access all retired players.

The model is different for active players who receive much of their licensing compensation on an equal share basis (in direct payment to the players and in payment to the NFLPA to fund its operations). Why? Because licensees never know when an unheralded late-round draft choice will get hot during the season and be instantly in demand in the marketplace. Or when a team not expected to do well will suddenly catch fire and be in contention for the Super Bowl. So licensees pay guarantees and royalties to NFL Players for the right to use all active players on the roster, to protect themselves in the marketplace and to meet the demands of consumers. Licensees don’t have that problem with retired players. They know that Doug Allen will never be famous or marketable like Namath or Brown. What they told us when I represented Players Inc was that, while they appreciated the opportunity to use all retired players, since they didn’t need most of them, Players Inc should pay for their availability out of existing royalties. That would have required taking money from active players, and from well-known and marketable retired players, to pay to thousands of retired players who were not marketable and were not used by licensees.

Despite some public comments to the contrary, most marketable retired players were not willing to share with all retired players, what, for many, was their main source of income. And active players were already using their leverage to get increases in benefits for retired players and were paying for a fully staffed NFLPA retired players department and benefits department out of active player licensing proceeds.

While I believe that the decision in the Parrish case would have been overturned on appeal, I understand De Smith’s decision to settle the matter to help unite retired and active players. I wish anyone representing retired players in the licensing and appearance marketplace great success, but, because I understand the realities of that marketplace and my place in it, I won’t be surprised or disappointed if I am not one of the retired players utilized by licensees.

Doug Allen
Bal Harbour, Fla.

Allen is former assistant executive director of the NFL Players Association and former president of NFL Players (formerly Players Inc).

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