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Volume 24 No. 156

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The NBPA player reps are expected to vote for a new player president at its annual meeting in Las Vegas today, as well as provide players with an update on the search for a new exec dir. Free agent G and NBPA VP Roger Mason Jr. has stated he will run for the position. It is not clear if another player may run for the position, but players can nominate candidates from the floor of the meeting, under the union’s constitution. “Our bylaws say that any member in good standing is eligible to run for office,” said interim Exec Dir Ron Klempner. “A member in good standing in the summer months, includes someone who finished the season on a roster and is not yet signed to a new contract.” About 40 NBPA player reps are expected to attend the meeting today. Klempner said the union’s Exec Committee met yesterday for about 10 hours to discuss union business and prepare for the meeting. It is expected that the union will name a search firm today. Asked about that, Klempner said the Exec Committee would give an update on the search process. The player reps are also expected to be given an update on the lawsuit former Exec Dir Billy Hunter filed against the union, outgoing President Derek Fisher and his publicist, Jamie Wior (Liz Mullen, Staff Writer).

BEHIND THE SCENES: In N.Y., Howard Beck writes NBPA leaders have been "quietly working to rebuild their association from within, while still dealing with the fallout from Hunter’s messy tenure and sagging morale at the union’s Harlem offices." It could be "another six months" before the union names a successor to Hunter, and the lack of a permanent exec dir "has made it nearly impossible for the league to move forward on certain initiatives, including testing for human growth hormone, which Commissioner David Stern wants in place for the coming season." Stern said, “Right now, they’re a little bit hamstrung." Beck notes known candidates for the position include MSG Sports Teams President of Business Operations Steve Mills, NBA Exec VP/Basketball Operations Stu Jackson and Bobcats President Fred Whitfield. The next exec dir could be "negotiating a new labor deal as soon as 2017, when both sides have the option to reopen the agreement" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/21).

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."