Retirees suing the NFL for use of their images in NFL Films without their permission filed settlement papers yesterday afternoon with the Minnesota federal court overseeing the case, which was filed in '09. The settlement would allow the NFL unfettered use of retirees' images in NFL Films. The new CBA granted that right for the first time, but previous CBAs were murky on the subject. Dan Gustafson, the settlement attorney on the case, is at the NFL meetings. The settlement includes $42M contributed over eight years to a fund for retirees to cover various needs. In addition, the first independent licensing agency dedicated to the use of retired players' publicity rights will be created. The agency will be overseen by a board of retirees and operated apart from the NFL and NFLPA. However, the NFL will offer financial and promotional support. The agency is designed to allow companies easier access to retirees' images. The NFL will be allowed to continue to use retirees' images in historical footage (Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer). Panthers Owner and former NFLer Jerry Richardson said the agreement was "better late than never." Richardson said, "Some of my most frustrating moments in discussions have evolved around this issue of what in my judgment is fairness to the former players of the league who were not included in the benefit packages and (not) appreciated the way they should. It is a new day. I am honored that this day has arrived. I am very grateful it is here" (AP, 3/18).
MAKING STRIDES: Pro Football HOFer Jim Brown, who was among several high-profile retirees at the NFL meetings, said the new licensing agency “is important because for the first time we will have our images count in all situations and be rewarded for that.” Brown: “We also will have the use of being a full partner with the NFL. We can create certain opportunities for ourselves, and we can also work in partnership with the NFL in creating opportunities that are beneficial for them, for us and for the owners.” Brown added, “Whatever we do, a portion will go into the fund for those who are in need in the Common Good (Fund) grouping. To all of us up here, that is a well-deserved way of looking at things because we are looking out for our brothers who are definitely in need” (NOLA.com, 3/18). Brown noted the fund will be for the "welfare of players who need it." Brown: "The $42 million will not go into the pockets of Jim Brown and people like myself, but it will be there to help those in need which has never happened before.” The licensing aspect “is also an important part because we can participate in our image being used. A portion of that will go to the Common Good Fund, but also we can grow that particular fund just by being in partnership with the owners and getting monies we never got before” (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Network, 3/18).
A BIG DEAL: ESPN.com’s John Clayton wrote, “Don't minimize the settlement the NFL made with retired players.” Clayton: "Here is why this is important: If the settlement is approved by the court after a five-year fight, the board of retired players can establish an independent licensing agency for the publicity rights for retired players. It would operate separately from the NFLPA. For example, if a company wants to produce ads involving retired players and use footage of the players in uniform, the agency can strike deals that would add more money to the fund. This won't stop NFL Films from using the footage of game action of the past. It would involve new commercial ventures” (ESPN.com, 3/18).