Last week a federal court jury in San Francisco returned a stunning $28 million verdict against the NFL Players Association in a class-action suit filed by more than 2,000 former players
In their ruling, jurors decided that the NFLPA had screwed retired NFL players out of substantial licensing fees, paricularly in relation to the best-selling Madden series. A crucial piece of evidence in the trial was a highly incriminating e-mail from an NFLPA official to an EA exec urging that data on retired players such as their uniform number be "scrambled" in order to avoid compensating the retirees for the use of their likeness.
Noting that many of the retired players who are plaintiffs in the suit either played for John Madden or played during his era, Fox Sports columnist Mark Kriegel is calling on the former coach to step into the situation. Madden, after all, had earned millions from the game. Hall of Fame defensive back Herb Adderley, the lead plaintiff in the case, told Kriegel:
If John Madden knew that they were scrambling us, it's a disgrace. If he didn't know, well, no blame to him. ... But I'm sure he's seen some of these video games himself. I mean, I played against the Raiders in the Super Bowl. He can obviously see that the guy on '66 Packers and the '71 Cowboys is Herb Adderley.
He should say something. It would really help if he would come out and say something to heal the animosity between the current and the retired players. It's been a real bad thing.
Kriegel writes that he has been unable to track Madden down for a comment on the case and has gotten the run-around from EA, NBC and Madden's agent:
"It's not really a 'Madden' story," says Rob Semsey, the PR guy at EA Sports, which had revenues of $3.67 billion last fiscal year. "It's a dispute between the retired players and the NFLPA."
I always love when they tell me what the story is. What are my chances of speaking with John Madden, I ask.
"Slim and none," he says.
An hour or so later, Rob Semsey's boss calls me. His name is Jeff Brown and he tells me to call Madden's agent.
Former NFL defensive standout Jack Youngblood, however, doesn't hold the old coach responsible:
Trying to say that John has some responsibility, I think, is stretching it. It's EA's responsibility. It's on the union. At some point in time," said Youngblood, "John Madden will stand up and do the right thing. I trust him as one of the great coaches in the league, and a great man. I firmly believe he will do what's honorable.