Retired Hall-of-Famers file lawsuit against NFL Films

Five pro football Hall-of-Famers and several other notable retired players have filed a lawsuit against NFL Films, challenging that they were not compensated for use of the players' images.

The case is titled Culp vs. NFL Films. The five NFL Hall-of-Famers are Curley Culp, John Riggins, Ron Yary, Dave Casper and Tom Mack.

The case, which was filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, alleges an existing proposed settlement is not adequate at protecting the publicity rights of retired players.

The suit was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by ex-NFL player and attorney Bob Stein, who played eight seasons and later became the founding CEO and president of the NBA Minnesota Timberwolves.

Steve Berman is another attorney who filed the lawsuit. He is the lead attorney in a similar case, Keller v. NCAA. In that case, student-athletes are challenging the NCAA's ability to sell their likeness to video-game developers.

The class action case that was filed Tuesday represents all ex-NFL players who opted out of a previous lawsuit against NFL Films fronted by former player Fred Dryer that was settled earlier this year. Those players believe that agreement doesn't adequately value their rights.

"I am pleased to see there are other players who also see the Dryer settlement is inadequate and unfair and want to provide retired players a meaningful settlement which more squarely tackles the financial windfall NFL Films has made through the misappropriation of our likenesses over the years," said Dryer.

Berman said there are new legal arguments missing from the Dryer lawsuit and if ruled in their favor, the players could receive meaningful compensation.

"We anticipate spending a great deal of time determining the amount of value NFL Films has created over the years to give us a better appreciation of the financial magnitude of this case, something that didn't happen in the Dryer case," Berman said.

The plaintiffs of the new lawsuit were originally supporters of the Dryer case, but according to Dryer, that deal from the original lawsuit "does not guarantee a single dollar will be paid directly to any retired player, even the ones who are most needy."

Instead, Dryer said the NFL payments mainly go toward programs and charities that already exist.

The new suit charges NFL Films got revenue unlawfully through violations of the right of publicity.

"We played by the rules during our pro careers, and all we are asking is for the NFL to play by the rules now that we have retired," said Riggins, who played 14 seasons in the NFL and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992. "Our contracts only permitted the use of our images while we played, under player contract; if the NFL wants to continue using the image, the rules are clear. The NFL must receive our consent and pay to use us."