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NFL and Its Licensing Unit Owe Former Players

The NFL and its licensing unit owe 2,062 former NFL players royalties.

A federal jury found in November that the National Football League Players Association and its licensing unit, Players Inc., owed as many as 2,062 former NFL players royalties from licensing agreements with companies such as video-game maker Electronic Arts Inc., makers of the popular "Madden NFL" video game. The jury ordered the association to pay $7.1 million in actual damages and $21 million in punitive damages after determining that the union had ignored contracts covering reimbursement for use of the retired players' images in such things as video games and sports trading cards.

Central to the retired players' claim was a 2001 letter in which a union executive directed EA Sports to scramble images of retired players used in "Madden NFL" to avoid having to make royalty payments. Hall of Famer Herb Adderley, the former Green Bay Packer, who initiated the class-action lawsuit more than two years ago, noted to reporters after the verdict, "If you look at the 1976 Green Bay Packers in that game, you'll know that the only left cornerback that year had to be Herb Adderley, but they scrambled my face and took the number off of my jersey. Yet, they had my correct height, weight and years of experience."

The retired players claimed they were entitled to a share in royalties under group licensing agreements they'd signed, while the union said that only active players were covered by the agreements.

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