IMG Picked To Run New Licensing Agency For Former NFL Players
IMG has been hired to run the nascent licensing agency for NFL retirees created by the preliminary settlement of a four-year-old lawsuit brought by former players against NFL Films. An announcement is expected soon. IMG will have a dedicated staff for the new agency, but anticipates heavily using other areas of the company like its events and college businesses, said IMG Senior VP/Licensing Wesley Haynes, who runs North American licensing for the agency. The NFL and a new retirees board agreed to settle the case in March. The case alleged NFL Films uses images of former players without their permission. The NFL agreed to pay $50M, $8M of which is for lawyers fees, and to help start the new licensing agency. The rest of the money is directed to charities that aid former players. Not all former players are on board, including the six original plaintiffs in the lawsuit. They contend the licensing agency is, in their words, a "red herring" designed to distract former players from the fact no direct payments are going to them as part of the settlement. “The group licensing thing is a huge part of selling the settlement, players are told there is a big rainbow at the end, and there is not,” said Fred Dryer, who brought the case against the NFL. The original plaintiffs believe group licensing of former players is mainly valuable to NFL Films, which will still be able to use former player images without a fee as part of the settlement. Notwithstanding Dryer’s objection, the judge in March scorned those opposed to the settlement. The court has scheduled a final settlement hearing on Oct. 17.
FORMER PLAYERS URGED NOT TO OPT OUT: Haynes said he believes based on IMG’s experience with colleges and representing retired players such as Pro Football HOFer Joe Montana for marketing that there is a strong business for group licensing former players. He urged former players not to opt out of the settlement, which would remove them from the new agency. “We hope the players stay as part of the class because we think there is value in having players in, and hope that opt outs are at a minimum,” Haynes said. Players have until Aug. 30 to opt out. The retirees’ board, created by the preliminary settlement, chose IMG over two other parties, including Insignia, sources said. 16W Marketing informally advised IMG on its bid, and may be retained in the future as consultant. Right now, the former retirees are known as the Pro Football Retired Players Association, though Haynes said the agency could have a different name. IMG receives a fee as dictated by the court. It should take two to three years, Haynes added, to build up the agency into a viable business.