NFLPA Madden Lawsuit: We Have the Smoking Gun Document

Yesterday GamePolitics reported on troubling e-mails between representatives of the NFL players’ union (NFLPA) and EA Sports which seemed to indicate that retired NFL players depicted in Madden’s classic teams were not well represented by the NFLPA and its licensing arm, Players, Inc (PI).

The e-mails are contained in court documents from Parrish, Adderley, Roberts, et al vs NFLPA, a class action suit scheduled to begin on October 20 in federal court in San Francisco. A reading of the e-mails appears to indicate:

  • some retired players received far less than their market value to appear in Madden
  • some retired players had details such as name and number "scrambled" so they would not be compensated
  • Take-Two’s competing football game prospects were damaged by the NFLPA’s deal with EA

Before going further, it is important to note a couple of points:

  1. Electronic Arts is not a defendant in the lawsuit, nor is any wrongdoing alleged by EA. The company paid its licensing money to the NFLPA. The plaintiffs, retired NFL players, take issue with the distribution of those funds by the NFLPA.
  2. Madden is not the only licensed product at issue, although it is by far the most lucrative. Others mentioned include such items as Topps football cards. Much of the case, however, revolves around Madden.

To recap the smoking gun e-mails, we’ll start with former PI exec LaShun Lawson’s e-mail to Madden producer Jeremy Strauser:

For all retired players that are not listed… their identity must be altered so that it cannot be recognized… Hence, any and all players not listed… cannot be represented in Madden 2002 with the number that player actually wore, and must be scrambled.

An e-mail from PI exec Clay Walker touches on how Take-Two lost out in the deal. This would appear to refer to 2K Sports’ failed All-Pro Football 2K8:

Take Two… went after retired players to create an “NFL” style video game after we gave the exclusive to EA. I was able to forge this deal with [the Pro Football Hall of Fame] that provides them with $400K per year (which is significantly below market rate) in exchange for the HOF player rights. EA owes me a huge favor because that threat was enough to persuade Take Two to back off its plans, leaving EA as the only professional football videogame manufacturer out there.

GP: We promised the document. Get it here.

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