Old School NFL Players Score $28 Million Win in Court… Madden Document Played Critical Role

A U.S. District Court jury in San Francisco has awarded $28 million to a group of 2,062 retired pro football players in a class-action lawsuit against the National Football League Players Association. The NFLPA is the union which represents active NFL players.

The jury returned a $7 million verdict against the NFLPA and then piled on $21 million worth of punitive damages.

While Madden publisher Electronic Arts was not a party in the case, the NFLPA’s negotiations with EA over licensing the images of retired players was a central piece of evidence in the trial, which lasted for three weeks.

As GamePolitics reported before the trial began, lawyers for the retired players uncovered several "smoking gun" e-mails which indicated that the NFLPA not only sold rights to the retired players at below market value, but deliberately undercut potential competition from rival sports publisher Take-Two Interactive.

Those critical e-mails include a message from former NFLPA exec LaShun Lawson to Madden producer Jeremy Strauser:

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

In an apparent reference to Take-Two’s failed All-Pro Football 2K8, an e-mail from NFLPA exec Clay Walker touches on how Take-Two lost out in the union’s deal with EA:

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.

At issue was the depiction of old school players on classic NFL teams included with Madden. The Los Angeles Times reports that each retired player involved in the lawsuit will receive $13,000. Lead plaintiff Herb Adderley, who wept when the verdict was read, told the L.A. Times:

If you look at the 1967 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 San Francisco Chronicle reports that defense lawyer Jeffrey Kessler expects the jury’s verdict to be overturned, calling it "unjust as a matter of law." An appeal to the 9th Circuit Court by the NFLPA seems virtually assured.

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  1. arnaldroy23 says:

    En Mexico quien sera el indicado de emitir el voto por todos nostoros los mexicanos? si cae como todo lo demas en el senado el voto sera el mismo siempre ya que ni trabajan y de ser el CONACyT espero realmente se pongan las pilas para evitar el mas que evidente monopolio por parte de la ventanita

  2. reiemark says:

    EA was at no point a defendant or party in the court proceedings. It has not been charged of any wrongdoing ( Online University ) and its purchase of the retired NFL player licenses in question were done within the eyes of the law. The defendants of the case were the NFLPA ( School of Nursing ). The matters surrounding the deal involving NFL 2002 was one of several accusations against the NFLPA. The defendant’s lawyer Jeffrey Kessler says he expects the jury’s verdict to be overturned. ( Human Resource Degree )

  3. diziizle says:

    The NFLPA on the other hand did have that obligation to do the best they could for their members, both active players, and retired ones. film izle

  4. Michael Chandra says:

    "unjust as a matter of law."
    Because we all know the law is supposed to protect crooks that scam people out of the money they deserve. *has flashbacks to Sinfest comic about Bankstas*

  5. 9hearts says:


    Amen – football games haven’t been the same since EA got a monopoly. Hopefully we see the end of the exclusive EA/NFL relationship someday.


    My Site: Toy Reviews

  6. LegendOfAlex says:

    Here’s a thought: Madden sucks. When was the last good Madden game, Sega Genesis?

    Any monopoly is bad, especially in a creative field like video games. And what is the only way to break apart this monopoly? Stop buying the crappy schlock they throw out each year. Force them to make a better game. Go out and buy another football game to satisfy your temporary desire to play virtual football.

    One week after the game’s release, every year, there are at least 20 copies that have been traded in at GameStop, EB Games, etc. It reminds me of the guy sin NYC who protested the French a few years back by buying French wine and then dumping it down the sewer. That is moot beacuse the French already have your money, so what do they care if you dump it in a sewer?

    Same with Madden. As long as people buy the game, EA and Madden won’t care if the game gets returned, broken, lost, given away, thrown out, or traded in. The only protest is to ignore them (like that episode of the Simpsons when the advertisements come to life).

    Also, the guy that wrote that "EA owes me" email is so burned. HAHAHAH! And if I were T2, I would sue EA and that guy for unfair business practices.

    -Legend in my spare time

  7. GarryWert says:

    One week after the game’s release, every year, there are at least 20 copies that have been traded in at GameStop, EB Games, etc. It reminds me of the guy sin NYC who protested the French a few years back by buying French wine and then dumping it down the sewer. (torin floor jack and low profile car jacks)

  8. LegendOfAlex says:

    Also, as far as Jibboo’s comment about no one caring about old players, how many people are buying the game to play the 2008 Browns? Or the Raiders? I bet if you look at the raw numbers of what teams get played the most, the Dolphins aren’t in the top 10. And how many gamers make trades until all the household names are on one team?

    Is anyone playing Madden for anyone other than the marquee players? Yet the no-name jobbers get paid in full for their likenesses. Name one guy on the Ravens that isn’t Ray Lewis. Or the second-string QB on the Colts. That guy has a SB ring and no one knows who he is.

    That’s the point of this lawsuit. Fair money, or at least fair business practices. But you can’t take away both.

    -Legend in my spare time

  9. Jibboo says:

    Seriously … is there anybody out there buying Madden so they can be the 67 Packers? or the 76 packers for that matter or how about the 86 packers … man nobody cares about guys who played in the NFL 20 years ago … unless they are Jim Brown or Walter Payton.  These old guys should be thankful that anyone even remembers who they were.  I highly doubt there are many 50-somethings playing madden.

  10. Aliasalpha says:

    Sadly Jibboo is probably correct, the use of old players as a selling point is at best very limited but if the player’s likenesses are used, they do have every right to be compensated and I’m damned glad the NFLPA didn’t get away with treating them like crap

  11. Krono says:

    I think that EA’s off the hook regardless, from the standpoint that they have no obligation to provide the best possible for retired football players. The NFLPA on the other hand did have that obligation to do the best they could for their members, both active players, and retired ones.


  12. Gaffit says:

    From the story, I think that EA’s not going to be fined anything, but it’s the National Football League Players Association that’s footing the bill. So I’m pretty sure that EA is off the hook, as they can simply feign ignorance and say they had no idea the Association was undercutting T-2

  13. DeepThorn says:

    Yeah EA, give T2 some money, haha. 

    barra – I think that every day…

    Funny thing is, EA is at 22.9, which is less than their bid to buy T2, who is at 12.1…  T2 used to be 30% the price of EA, now it is around half the price.  That is just stock value though.  T2 is still only worth 12% of what EA is, even though I wish it was an exact relation to the stock price.

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