SBJ/Aug. 19-25, 2013/Law and Politics

Key to settlement: How much value in images of non-stars?

Is there a market for retired NFL players? Certainly there’s one for individual stars like Joe Montana or Roger Staubach, but what about for those not considered legends of the game?

The answer could go a long way to deciding whether the pending legal settlement in the Dryer v. NFL case is a boon to former players.

“We believe that it is a pretty big opportunity in the marketplace,” said Wesley Haynes, senior vice president of licensing at IMG, which will handle the new licensing agency created by the federal court supervised settlement. That agency will try to market former players as a group.

Haynes pointed out that many former players remain popular in the markets where they starred as collegians, something that meshes with IMG’s robust college licensing business.

Several entities have tried group-licensing work with retirees, including NFL Alumni and the NFL Players Association, but with little success. “The NFL Alumni licensing program went on for years closely supported by the NFL and that didn’t work,” said Bob Stein, a lawyer for the case’s six original plaintiffs, who oppose the settlement. NFL Alumni is a league-backed retirees group.

Most former players are only valuable as part of their use in NFL Films, Stein contended, and not to corporate America.

Stein’s client Fred Dryer, the principally named plaintiff in the case, blasted the agency as a sham designed to distract from what he says is the real issue: that players are not getting paid for their use in NFL Films.

Whether former players who take part in the settlement will see benefits from the licensing agency, which will have to find companies willing to pay a group of retirees for their commercial rights, is unclear. The potential, however, was enough of a lure that three marketing agencies, including IMG and Insignia Sports & Entertainment, bid on the business. The identity of the third agency could not be determined.

Haynes said IMG will have a dedicated staff for this new business line.

“We have talked to a number of the prospective licensees,” Haynes said, “and we know there is interest there.”

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