NFLPA appeals federal court-mandated payout to retired players

SAN FRANCISCO -- The NFL Players Association is appealing a federal court decision ordering the union to pay $28.1 million to retired players for allegedly cutting them out of lucrative marketing deals.

NFLPA interim executive director Richard Berthelsen told The Associated Press on Thursday that the union contends the ruling "was wrongly decided by the jurors and that there was not sufficient evidence in the record on which to base the verdict they rendered."

A jury found in November that the union failed to include the retired players in deals with Electronic Arts Inc., the maker of the popular "Madden NFL" video game, and other companies.

The players' association filed its appeal Tuesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Berthelsen said a timetable hasn't yet been established to hear briefings on the appeal.

Attorneys for the retired players claim the union cut them out of licensing deals so active players could receive bigger royalty payments. The union is arguing that companies paid licensing fees exclusively for active players.

Berthelsen said Thursday that several rulings made during the three-week trial, including whether the retired players involved could be recognized as a certified class, should be called into question. He also said not enough high-profile players signed the group licensing agreement to make the list marketable.

"That was our problem: Well-known players that would've made it more viable as it deals with the license didn't join up," Berthelsen said.

The lawsuit was filed in 2007 by Hall of Fame cornerback Herb Adderley on behalf of 2,056 retired players who contend the union failed to actively pursue marketing deals on their behalf with video games, trading cards and others sports products.

Electronic Arts' Madden game contains 143 "vintage" teams populated by nameless players closely resembling Adderley and other retirees. Yet only active players received a cut of the EA deal, the union's largest, which surpassed $35 million for 2008.

Ronald Katz, a lawyer representing the retirees, told jurors that longtime union chief Gene Upshaw and others "betrayed the trust of their members" by neglecting the retired players, who pay $50 per year to keep their union membership. Upshaw died of cancer in August.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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